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Review: Hamlet the Clown Prince at Northern Stage

MATCHLESS language, famous story, glorious history and all that. But let’s face it, Hamlet’s not much of a rib-tickler.

Cast members of Hamlet

MATCHLESS language, famous story, glorious history and all that. But let’s face it, Hamlet’s not much of a rib-tickler. Everyone ends up dead and it’s a long time coming.

Wonder what would happen if we gave it to a company of clowns?

Here’s what: a hilarious show characterised by physical and linguistic brilliance – but not necessarily of the Shakespearean variety.

This was the first UK performance of a play which has brought several houses down in India and the Far East and also picked up awards, including a best director gong for Rajat Kapoor, a Bollywood star who was here to see his baby on British soil.

The play was first performed in Mumbai, where The Company Theatre is based, in 2008.

We are in the hands of Soso, Fifi, Buzo, Fido, Nemo and Popo, a company of clowns who aspire, just this once, to be serious and present one of the world’s great grave masterpieces.

Being clowns, they fall over, fall out – of character and with each other – and are constantly distracted.

Being clowns, they are also given to sudden bouts of mawkish sentimentality. Buzo (Puja Sarup) as Gertrude is fresh out of some sort of relationship with Soso (Atul Kumar), who plays Hamlet, and the wounds are fresh, meaning sometimes the action of the play stops for a bout of bickering and recrimination.

Fido (Neil Bhoopalam) as Claudius can’t quite summon up the requisite reverence for the work of the Bard. He just wants to dance. In his other role as the ghost of Hamlet’s murdered father, his message of vengeance is undermined by his robotic routine with a bit of moon-walking thrown in.

The performers flit in and out of different languages, with a bit of mumbo jumbo thrown in and odd recognisable snatches of soliloquy.

It looks chaotic but it’s clearly controlled chaos – very controlled. It is very clever and very funny. No interval but one hour and 40 minutes simply flew and I laughed a lot.

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