Mon, 21 Sept 2020
Horatio! And Hamlet in front rooms everywhere
17 – 20 September
Review by Jon Lewis
Creation Theatre Company’s latest live Zoom production is a two-hander where a sozzled Hamlet (Ryan Duncan), dressed in his customary black and isolating during lockdown in his apartment with social media for company, is online with his playfully stoic best friend Horatio (Nicholas Osmond, who also adapted the play). Horatio, because of his lower status than Hamlet, cannot end the call and we watch him suffering the slings and arrows of Hamlet’s maudlin introspection and existential worrying.
Whilst Hamlet speaks the lines Shakespeare wrote, although not in the order that the Bard wrote them, Horatio’s language is contemporary, and imbued with irony. Listening to Hamlet complain, Horatio quips acidly ‘not been enjoying the lockdown, then’, with Hamlet replying honestly, ‘to me it is a prison’. The conversation between the two is a droll game where they are playing two different sports, Horatio playing catch-up to Hamlet’s mood swings. We identify with Horatio whose adlibs are intended to tease audiences with a strong knowledge and understanding of the play.
There’s an intriguing plot twist where Horatio pretends to be the ghost of Hamlet’s father, role-playing somewhat dangerously, giving Hamlet by mis-design a motivation to kill his uncle. Horatio has some advantages over his royal superior, not least his understanding of the Zoom buttons, giving him the option to mute Hamlet when his whinging becomes too irritating.
This production works best when today’s lockdown traumas are integrated into Hamlet’s narrative. The witty comments about the Players who Hamlet wants to work with on a play having been out of work during lockdown reflect current problems of creative freelancers who are unemployed. Some of Polonius’ lines about his student days as an actor in Julius Caesar are reattributed to Horatio without any loss of context and the joke about how to fight with swords in a socially-distanced bout makes perfect sense in today’s world of readjustments.
The narrative ends somewhat abruptly, leaving the audience wanting more. Because the drama only focuses on early scenes in Hamlet, the experience is not quite as cohesive as Creation’s recent, brilliant production of The Merry Wives of WhatsApp, which returns 3-4 October, which I wholeheartedly recommend.
New dates for The Merry Wives of WhatsApp
Performed live online over Zoom
3 OCTOBER | 7PM BST, & 4 OCTOBER | 6:30PM & 8:30PM BST
When greasy knight John Falstaff slides into their DMs with identical love messages, Meg and Alice turn to their local WhatsApp group to plan vengeance on him and their useless husbands. How like you these Merry Wives?
Written and adapted by Olivia Mace (the mastermind behind Bleak House) and Lizzie Hopley (returning to us after 9 years following stints as a Roaring Girl with the RSC and writer of Big Finish’s Doctor Who audio plays), these two Zoom novices will have you in hysterics.
A modern re-imagining of Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor directed by Natasha Rickman (The Time Machine 2020), The Merry Wives of WhatsApp is a play of women, wine and wheelie bins.
Back by popular demand!
“The jokes come so thick and fast that really this play needs to be seen twice to catch them all. It’s a LOL comedy that is authentic and true to the spirit of the Shakespeare, but also bitingly relevant to this year’s lockdown experiences.” Jon Lewis, Newbury Today
www.creationtheatre.co.uk or 01865 766266