Student Prince Hamlet returns to Elsinore upon his father’s death, only to see his uncle Claudius take the throne and marry Gertrude (Hamlet’s mother). Meanwhile, castle guards are convinced they’ve seen the ghost of old King Hamlet and inform Horatio, who decides he must tell his friend Hamlet; following a one-to-one with the ghost, Hamlet learns that his father was murdered – and that he needs his son to take revenge. Also at this time, Polonius bids farewell to his son Laertes, who is returning to France, and wonders about the status of the relationship between his daughter Ophelia and Hamlet. P.Ham’s apparent madness has made this an all more pressing concern…
There is no conclusive evidence as to when Hamlet was written and first performed, with suggestions ranging from 1599 (due to frequent references to Julius Caesar) to summer 1602 – however 1601 seems to be the most popular choice. One of its earliest recorded performances was aboard the East India Company ship, The Dragon, when it was located just off the coast of Sierra Leone in 1607. It was definitely performed at court for James I in 1619 and Charles I in 1637.
Though people get their knickers in a twist about female actors taking on traditionally male roles, Hamlet has been played by women on & off since 1796, when Elizabeth Powell was the first known woman to take on the role; Sarah Bernhardt and Sarah Siddons are two other early examples (the latter also playing Ophelia in a different production). John Gielgud, Richard Burton, Laurence Olivier, Jonathan Pryce & Kenneth Branagh are some of the more prominent 20th century Hamlets, with the likes of Andrew Scott, Maxine Peake, David Tennant, Benedict Cumberbatch, Michelle Terry, Ben Whishaw & Paapa Essiedu taking on the role in more recent times.
The Show Must Go Online has a grand alumni production this week, with the following cast: Kristin Atherton (Hamlet), Emily Carding (Claudius), Michael Bertenshaw (Polonius), Emilio Vieira (Horatio), Gabriel Akamo (Laertes), Seeta Indrani (Gertrude), Tanvi Virmani (Ophelia), Miguel Perez (Ghost of Hamlet’s father), Robbie Capaldi (Rosencrantz), Gabrielle Sheppard (Marcellus), Stephen Leask (Gravedigger), Maryam Grace (Guildenstern), Doireann May White (Fortinbras), Julia Giolzetti (Ensemble), Will Block (Ensemble), Ian Blackwell Rogers (Ensemble), Pedro Santos (Ensemble), Dominic Brewer (Ensemble), Mark Laverty (Swing), Victoria Rae Sook (Swing).
- “To be, or not to be, that is the question”
- “This above all: to thine own self be true”
- “That one may smile and smile and be a villain”
- “Brevity is the soul of wit”
- “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark”
- “Frailty, thy name is woman!”
- “The lady doth protest too much, methinks”
- Goodnight, sweet prince”
It’s a play that can be overdone (according to This is Shakespeare it is the most filmed Shakespeare play), but if you can get past a lot of exposure you will absolutely understand why it’s performed so much. And if the TSMGO version is your introduction to it, then you couldn’t be in safer hands.
Hamlet premières on 12 August 2020. The Show Must Go Online runs every Wednesday at 7pm and is also available to watch afterwards. Become a Patron at The Show Must Go Online’s Patreon page. The Show Must Go Online merchandise is available from Redbubble.