HAMLET | London, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

In this new production from Shakespeare’s Globe, Hamlet (George Fouracres) is an affable young Black Countryman, who gradually goes screamingly, murderously insane.

Fouracres is best known for his solo and sketch comedy (Daphne, Gentlemon), which at first seems like crazy casting for Shakespeare’s most lauded tragedy. When Fouracres observes what a piece of work is man, picking out an unwitting audience member, the whole audience is laughing. When he asks the audience if he is a coward, or a villain, he keeps repeating the question until we answer, like a pantomime.

This is the production’s genius, for those who can bear what seems superficially like irreverence. The result of our laughter is a deeper connection with the prince, and a deeper sense of tragedy, with crystal clear text.

The rest of the cast are also superb: at first, everyone speaks in typical posh Shakespeare voice, dressed in Elizabethan garb; only Hamlet has a regional accent and dressed in modern clothes. But as time progresses, characters start to adopt Nike shoes and hoodies. Squeezed onto benches in the tiny, candle-lit playhouse, the effect is all the more powerful.

Playing 21 January – 9 April 2022 at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse.

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