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REVIEW: Super Hamlet 64 at Newcastle Alphabetti
Mario vs Shakespeare
Super Hamlet 64
Newcastle Alphabetti Theatre
Until Thursday 19th July 2018
This is a unique show. A fine example of physical comedic
theatre with a Shakespearean core and a 16-bit coating. Writer and performer has
combed computer gaming history to pack in as many references as he can without
losing the original Shakespeare plot. It is a clever comedy that works really
well. It is a shame it is only in Newcastle for one more night.
It was clear at the start that a number in the audience
were regular gamers. The crowd understood the Portal references on the projection but they also remember the fun
of playing Mario Kart on the Wii. This
element of the audience had a part to play in a show that occasionally broke
the fourth wall.
Now, Hamlet reboots are nothing new. Disney have enjoyed
success with The Lion King which
copied much of the story. But whereas Disney used cute animals, Edward Day uses
familiar characters from gaming. Hamlet’s Dad is Mario, his uncle is Luigi. In
the love triangle is Peach, who marries Luigi with indecent haste after his
brother’s death. This leaves Edward’s character the “simple” job of killing the
The single-handed play is accompanied by a large rear
projection and 2 smaller screens that, on occasion, show the players stats.
What adds to the unique show is when Edward appears in 16-bit form on the gaming
sequences. Anyone who has seen the title sequence of Dara O Briain's Go 8 Bit on Dave will understand the concept. That
said, the show is more than an homage to gaming.
Photo: Andy Byrne
Writer and performer Edward Day has a wealth of experience
with performing Shakespeare and he has got under the skin of text. I have said
in previous reviews that if Bill was alive today, I’d imagine he’d be more into
this type of relevant theatre than the stuffy verbatim retellings of his
original script.I’ll avoid a spoiler
alert here, but the heartbreak ending of Hamlet really lends itself to the Undertale treatment.
The production felt bigger than the sum of its parts,
partly down to the well thought-through interaction between the screen and the
performer. Whether this be the inclusion of the monologue in text or the
appearance / disappearance of the character through a portal, it was a slick performance.
I had pulled my gaming teenage son away from his X-Box this
evening to come along and to offer his thoughts. He said it was the best
Shakespeare he had seen and yes, it was better than a night on his console. I
don’t think the show can have a higher recommendation than that!
I am really pleased I had the chance to see this show. Now
I need to get my PS3 controllers back on charge.