Hamlet for Game of Thrones fans at Crawley's Hawth

Director Max Lewendel is promising nothing less than Hamlet for the Game of Thrones generation as he heads out on tour.

Monday, 27th March 2017, 5:24 pm
Updated Tuesday, 9th May 2017, 6:52 pm
Hamlet. Picture by George Riddell
Hamlet. Picture by George Riddell

The show plays the Hawth Theatre, Crawley, March 30-31, and the Kings Theatre, Southsea, April 1-4 (kingsportsmouth.co.uk).

The King of Denmark is dead. Consumed with grief, Prince Hamlet avenges his father’s death with devastating consequences for his family and the kingdom. Shakespeare’s most challenging play tells the tale of Prince Hamlet fighting the new king who stole his throne.

Max is promising a very vigorous, active production, with Hamlet very much the man of action rather than the more usual man of inaction.

Hamlet. Picture by George Riddell

In fact, Max was describing his vision to a venue, stressing the sword-fighting and blood, when the theatre responded that it sounded like Game of Thrones. Max was delighted and has gone with it.

“It’s my favourite Shakespeare play,” Max says, “and no matter how many times I read it, it comes off the page and I see more things. The version we are doing purely comes from the text and how the text read for me when I read it… which is very different to the way other people read it! It is going to be very active, very kinetic.

“A lot of people read the script and see Hamlet as very melancholic… like a soppy teenager in his room. I see that as an over-simplistic view of what depression is. You get that trajectory of when the apathy lifts and you get this surge of energy that builds up and you are standing on a bridge and threatening to jump or you are at the top of the bell tower with an assault rifle.

“Hamlet is depressed, but with a very destructive depression, wanting to destroy the world around it. The young prince is not self-pitying or self-indulgent. He is angry. He is infuriated by the world that envelops him.”

Hamlet. Picture by George Riddell

The trigger for his surge of energy is seeing the ghost of his father: “When we first see him, he is very much the idea that most people have of him, he is sad, he is not doing anything. But then this man who does not believe in ghosts sees a ghost, and the ghost scares him out of his mind. He doesn’t even know if it is the ghost of his father or the devil working on him, so he has got to try to find out.”

And that’s where Game of Thrones comes in: “I hadn’t considered Game of Thrones until he said it, but the more I considered it, the more appropriate it seems. The way Shakespeare deals with perceptions about gender and about active/inactive is just amazing, the way he talks about the way that era is viewed. It was a very useful way of looking it.

“Even ‘To be or not to be’ can be interpreted in a lot of different ways. It can be said very aggressively. You can be on the verge of taking your own life. It is very immediate and very visual.”

Some of the side plots have been shed for a production that lasts two and a half hours: “But it is the original verse, and you get the full story. But in this version, it becomes much more of a family drama. To me, the interaction between these people in the family is the most interesting aspect of the play.”

Hamlet. Picture by George Riddell

Tickets cost £16.50 (discounts £11.50).

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Hamlet. Picture by George Riddell

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