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Review: Hamlet – Rotten States at Hope Theatre

24 January, 2020 — By John Courtenay O’Connor

Hamlet: Rotten States. Photo: Matthew Koltenborn

THE touring company 6FootStories was founded by writer-performers Jake Hassam and Nigel Munson. Their original intention was to employ actors six feet in height – a tall order! They realised that they had to lower their expectations as many a fine actor out there is under the height they required.

They’ve managed to reduce Shakespeare’s longest play, The Tragedy of Hamlet the Prince of Denmark, to 75 minutes.

Hamlet: Rotten States depicts the prince in a sorry state, contemplating revenge on his uncle Claudius, who has murdered his father in order to marry his mother and seize the throne. The production opens on a set designed by Nico Lanio, reminiscent of the cluttered office of the TV cop Lieutenant Colombo, with a poster of the Scottish play on view (Macbeth was the company’s previous adaptation).

The players enter the space and are deep in rehearsal; Hamlet has hired a band of travelling gypsy performers to enact a revenge play in front of the king and queen in the hope of catching “the conscience of the king”. They are visited by a supernatural image, the ghost of Hamlet’s father, looking suspiciously like Brian Blessed, who commands them to avenge his death.

The players are extremely well acted by Will Bridges and Jake Hassam and are joined by the talented Irish actress Amy Fleming – certainly not a six-footer. In one scene Bridges appears in a fez clutching a teddy bear. For a moment I thought he was going to go into a Tommy Cooper routine – perhaps that’s to come?

“The play’s the thing.”

Until February 1
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