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Super Hamlet 64 at the Old Joint Stock

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A one-person, physical theatre production that somehow blends live music, the Shakespearean tragedy Hamlet, and a raft of retro computer games sounds like one of those things you put together by drawing subjects out of a hat, and yet it works.  In fact, it’s almost delightfully hopeful towards the end.

Theatre maker, poet and animator Edward Day has toured the traditional version of Hamlet, but here they’ve fused some classic retro games whereby characters which look suspiciously like everyone’s favourite Italian plumbers take on the role of the deceased King Hamlet and Uncle Claudius.  Rosencrantz and Guildenstern become split between Final Fantasy IV, Crash Bandicoot, Street Fighter II and Curse of Monkey Island.  There are Mortal Kombat ‘Fatalities’, zombies, deaths and do-overs – which come to think of it is more similar to the original source material than I thought at the time.

It’s bonkers, but it’s brilliant in sparks created when you put two things together than you have no idea could work so well.  And it is so wonderfully made believable by Day, and their energy, scene shifts and musical interludes.  There’s a spot of audience participation in a full on death scene; one man launched himself onto the floor which surprised the actor but showed just how much fun everyone was having.

Everyone knows Hamlet doesn’t end well, for, well anyone.  And yet the ending of Super Hamlet 64 manages to untangle and re-tangle the ideas of morality in the original play, and the nature of computer games. Super Hamlet 64 is absurdly honest and sweet, and a complete rollercoaster of a production which is clever, bonkers and brilliant.

Super Hamlet 64 is on tour around the country, and back in our neck of the woods on 21 September at the Artrix in Bromsgrove.

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