Brighton Fringe Review: Hamlet? *****

Posted On 02 Jun 2018 at 3:25 pm

By Bloody Bawdy Villains; The Warren – Blockhouse

“In this production of Hamlet I’m going to play Hamlet and I’m going to do all the soliloquies and it will be really good.” –Damien Warren Smith, Artistic Director of Artistry & Direction.

I went to review this having never heard of this company, but having previously seen Damien Warren Smith of Bloody Bawdy Villains perform in ‘Garry Starr Performs Everything’ also at The Warren, earlier this month. I absolutely loved it; it was skilled yet hilarious, and cantered through a multitude of artistic performance styles in only an hour. It was exhilarating.

Hamlet? was also a recommendation from someone who’d seen the show and loved it. A surreal deconstruction of the Shakespeare play Hamlet with the three performers of the company inhabiting different characters from the play at different times, often simultaneously whilst interrupting key scenes and with no recourse to the linear narrative of the original play. This was a very clever show and one I hugely enjoyed.

The Spearhead

It was very funny in parts and incredibly quick-witted, but what I found interesting was that I could feel my tired old brain creaking into life with the rapid barrage of wit and wordplay, and the realisation that the writers and performers of this really know their craft and the play inside and out. I spent some time trying to make sense of what I remembered of the piece from GCSE English way back when, and perhaps the only drawback with this show would be that for someone with no knowledge of Hamlet, it would make little sense, without some understanding of the play and its structure.

These skilled performers who really inhabited their multiple roles onstage, with a bizarre array of props, the obligatory ruffs, as well as a huge box of stray ping pong balls, and a character wearing fourteen bras (Fortinbras – the home of Hamlet – geddit?). Roping in the audience to be their subjects, and including showbiz tantrums, nudity, and quick -fire mime in a way that made me realise that they must have been classically trained. Sure enough, the trio who all live in Berlin, have studied at Le Coq, and Gaulier in Paris, both famed for exploring the physical embodiment of the actor.

This show is now finished here at Brighton Fringe unfortunately, but I cannot recommend this troupe enough. I could happily have watched this piece of theatre for hours. It was so intense and all consuming, but in the best possible ways. They really are superb at their art. The direction, sounds and stage set are also to be noted for their skill. The director Lily Sykes and designer Friederike Meisel worked together in harmony to bring order to the chaos. Keep an eye on Bloody Bawdy Villains – they will do great things.

5 Stars

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