The great Dane gets himself
a Game of Thrones makeover

Icarus Theatre Collective - Hamlet Tour 2017. Picture by George Riddell
Icarus Theatre Collective - Hamlet Tour 2017. Picture by George Riddell
Jon Richardson 'Old Man'. Picture by Andy Hollingworth

REVIEW: Jon Richardson at The Kings Theatre, Southsea

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Sometimes a tagline is just too good to resist, so when ‘Shakespeare for the Game of Thrones generation’ was suggested about Icarus Theatre Collective’s production of Hamlet, they embraced it.

Sometimes a tagline is just too good to resist, so when ‘Shakespeare for the Game of Thrones generation’ was suggested about Icarus Theatre Collective’s production of Hamlet, they embraced it.

Director Max Lewendel says: ‘I was going around pitching lots of different shows to venues, including The Kings. I had about eight different shows running around in my head that I was talking to them about and Hamlet is the one that everyone said: “Yes, we want that one”.

‘Possibly because I was the most passionate about that one, but also because I think it’s something that a lot of people are wanting at the moment – it’s a take on it that’s much more active and different, and has a stronger contemporary resonance.’

The play is one of Shakespeare’s most celebrated as it follows the titular Danish prince as he seeks to avenge his father’s death, and a bloody tragedy unfolds.

Regarding the TV fantasy show which has been one of the biggest hits of recent years, Max explains: ‘When I was going around venues and describing what I wanted to do, I didn’t have that pitch in mind. It was one of the venues that said to me as I was talking about the sword-work and all the blood we’re using: “It sounds like Game of Thrones”. And I went: ‘Yes, it kind of is!” And we ran with that from there.

There’s no contemporary verse in there, but hopefully it’s done in a way that’s visual as well as just the verse. You don’t have to get it intellectually, you can let it wash over you

Max Lewendel, director of Hamlet

‘He actually wanted me to call it Game of Hamlet, but I thought that was a little too much, too market-driven and people would expect dragons.

‘But we settled on Hamlet for the Game of Thrones generation – it’s for people who like that, but not moving it into that world.

‘It’ll help us a lot if season seven is good – if not...’ he laughs.

Nicholas Limm is tackling the lead and says: ‘Hamlet’s one of my favourite plays, so I’ve seen loads of depictions of Hamlet.

‘I’ve got the advantage of a really strong ensemble in this . I have the freedom to play off some very strong other characters and the whole world created here makes it unique in and of itself.’

Hamlet is one of the roles young male actors are supposed to covet. So how has Nicholas approached it?

‘It’s a case of trying to make it come from a place of truth. I see Hamlet as around my sort of age, so there’s things I can relate to and there’s so much opportunity to explore all these different facets of his relationships with his mother and Ophelia and his uncle and things like that – there’s a broad spectrum of things you can relate to and find things in yourself.’

The production features an edited version of the text, but as Max explains: ‘There’s no contemporary verse in there, but hopefully it’s done in a way that’s visual as well as just the verse. You don’t have to get it intellectually, you can let it wash over you.’

The other main change is having Horatio and Rosencrantz played by women.

‘It was conscious choice to have a woman play Horatio,’ explains Max. ‘It just felt like a female character to me, it added something to the dynamic between them that hadn’t been done before. With Rosencrantz, it was down to the casting, I was open. I tried it several ways, and it worked well with one man and one woman.

‘The characters are so strong, and we’ve established Horatio and Hamlet have this connection, this intense friendship and we talked about the dynamic with regards to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern as well and it’s quite nice to have that with a man and a woman.

‘It’s nice to have some strong female characters as well.

‘I think it’s important for doing Shakespeare today, that you find some characters to change the gender of as it’s so dominated by male roles, and in this day and age it’s about time we fixed that.’

There is already one very famous female role in Hamlet though – the doomed Ophelia.

In this version though, as played by Kerry Gooderson, she’s not portrayed as a weak-willed victim.

‘She’s very funny, humane actress,’ says Nicholas, ‘and she doesn’t fall into the trap of the “woe is me” and flinging herself around – she brings a kind of steely fierceness to it, and a power behind it, which makes her descent into madness all the more poignant. She’s also fully armed, so she’s a match for Hamlet and hopefully we’re playing it as if they’re equals.’

Students can get discount tickets at £8 each by entering the code ‘CROWN17’ when buying online.

The Kings Theatre, Southsea

April 1&4

kingsportsmouth.co.uk