Buzzy, original and slightly anarchic, this is Shakespeare Camden style
I’ve always thought Hamlet would be very at home in a pub, holding forth over a pint of craft beer, getting rowdier and more self obsessed with every sip. So it’s apt to stage Hamlet in a sticky floored pub in Camden as a semi-immersive production.
Fox and Chips pub brawl Shakespeare is a fun, energetic, fresh production of Shakespeare’s Danish-set tragedy. The conceit is that Polonius is the bar manager and his pub the venue for evil Claudius and traitorous Gertrude’s wedding reception. While the audience never really move on from playing the audience, despite pre-performance banter, the setting helps to break down barriers that seems to spring up when people are presented with Shakespeare. And I’d always rather watch a production from a sofa with a pint of real ale (they do chips too, so what’s not to like?)
This production has a 1970s theme; the costumes are all flares and big collars and a poster of Bay City Rollers (at least I think it was Bay City Rollers) adorns the walls. This is never explained, but it highlights the dramatic soap opera elements of Hamlet. Anything that helps bring Shakespeare down from its lofty reputation to the very human level Will is speaking to is always welcome.
Fox and Chips’ production is engaging and well paced. The big speeches are delivered with a contemporary rhythm and without unnecessary fanfare or wink-wink knowingness that can dog productions. Imran Momen’s Hamlet cuts the right kind of teenage angst with that dash of cruelty; stropping, mean, inconsistence, he’s a man who loves you in the early stages and dumps you when you start falling for him – basically every guy you’ve ever met online dating.
Chris Kyriacou’s Claudius is a standout performance, and he’s well supported by Victoria Otter as Gertrude – not an easy role to play in my mind; I’ve never really figured out where my sympathies lie with her.
The production could maybe benefit from toning down the frantic physicality. There is often a temptation with Shakespeare to take the short cut to explaining the plot through gestures rather than letting the words – which let’s face is, are usually pretty good – tell the story leading to an over reliance on the physical.
But this is a small criticism of what is a brave, sparky, deconstructed and original performance of one of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies.
Plus, the ale is very good. H would approve.