Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, London
Although Sean Holmes’s production has some nice touches, it fails to plumb the play’s existential depths and lacks emotional intensity
George Fouracres, best known as a comic, recently appeared on the Globe’s stage as Twelfth Night’s Andrew Aguecheek in a piece of exquisite casting. He returns as the avenging prince Hamlet, again under Sean Holmes’s direction, but this is not the Dane or the drama as we know it. It is Hamlet: The Comedy, or a “farcical-dramatical” as Polonius might say, with plenty of quizzical thrown in.
Fouracres’s Hamlet is a modern-day Morrissey-singing indie-type stuck inside a period-dress court and speaks in a Black Country accent (Fouracres’ own). Sometimes he japes or raves, occasionally he verges on tears. That is all good and well, but Fouracres also flattens the poetry and rhythm in his character’s magnificent soliloquies, deliberately it seems, speaking them slowly, simplifying them so they sound almost like modern demotic. He also mines his character’s suicidal angst for laughs. This is entertaining – albeit strange, too – but sucks the tragedy out of the play.