Hamlet by William Shakespeare – The Lyric, Theatre Royal Plymouth

I know everyone already knows who wrote Hamlet. I just wanted it to match all the other posts ok.

I’d been looking forward to seeing the RSCs version of Hamlet since I saw on my little programme planning sheet that it would be coming to TRP. I’d highlighted it and everything. I was so right.

The RSC’s touring Hamlet is the most vibrant and exciting version I’ve seen in a long time. The action is still nominally set in Denmark but has been inspired by Africa. The sets are at times bright and playful, other times geometric and sparse – but always beautiful. Paapa Essiedu might now be my favourite Hamlet incarnation. The play’s opening at a University graduation emphasises the Prince’s youthfulness, fitting well with Essiedu’s energy. He delivers the lines with such a natural ease you forget he’s speaking in archaic language. Hamlet’s indecision is brought to the fore in his pacing and through the strange paintings he creates throughout. Mimi Ndiweni is fantastic as Ophelia too, bringing a robustness to a character usually presented as an ethereal waif. Her madness bristles with anger and pain.

The production as a whole breathes new life into the play. The numerous school groups in the audience were having a whale of a time, spending the interval debating favourite moments and whether they thought Hamlet was going to kill Claudius (the interval arrives just as he is hovering, watching Claudius pray). I don’t remember any production of a Shakespeare play I saw as a teen engaging me like that.


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