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Rating: ****

Richmond Theatre, London (2011)

Summary: Childish and simplified telling of Shakespeare’s classic, that’s’ a joy to watch.

I really wasn’t sure what to expect with this production; at best, an abridged version of the Bard’s most famous tragedy with a few tunes thrown in to move it all along; at worst the complete version (in original text) sung over some period music.

I got neither. Instead I was witness to a musical that keeps the characters of Hamlet, the overriding story and just a few quotes. The rest was original songs and contemporary prose that gives you the essence of what was going on in the original text.

May not sound too enticing, but the saving grace with this production is that the songs are really very catchy and very funny, and the cast perform it with their tongues firmly in their cheeks. The cast, in total are great. There’s a gusto that drive the production into warp speed, with a nodding wink to the audience just to remind us not to take this or ourselves too seriously. There’s singing, puppetry, sword fighting, wrestling and a bit of acting thrown in too!

The production has a wonderful sense of homage to Monty Python; their intellectual slapstick humour coupled with artistically engaging but simple backdrops. From the opening note right until the standing ovation at the end, I had a constant smile on my face and many times laughed out loud. And turning ‘To be or not to be’ into a power rock ballad was inspired.

Keep you tongue in your cheek and just go for the ride… it’s a hoot (unless you’re expecting something close to Shakespeare’s original).

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