“Hamlet”, Almeida Theatre (Andrew Scott/dir. Robert Icke)

We had tickets to Hamlet for the evening of 20 March, and early on 18 March my father died, after a heart attack six days before that he never woke up from. So I’m not really sure how much of the show felt raw and fresh because it was a really good production, although everyone says it is, so it must be at least partially that, and how much of it is because, you know, my dad had died forty hours before, pretty suddenly, and Hamlet isn’t exactly a show lacking in “sudden dead dad” emotions.

A surprisingly helpful thing about grieving in my tradition is how prescribed the activities and times are. There is an extensive framework that walks you through things: what you do (and don’t do) the first week, the first month, the first year. Each period of grieving eases you into the next one, and they don’t exactly taper off but there’s a feeling of being able to let each emotion inhabit fully in the space, giving you room to breathe it in and experience it properly, and knowing that it’s okay to do it fully because it has an end time and it’s not going to be this big forever.

Hamlet hasn’t had a proper mourning space: he’s barely processed the fact of it before his mother’s wedding celebration breaks into the space of family grief, and suddenly everyone’s going “cheer up Hamlet!” and “get over it!” and “come on, it’s only natural, everything dies! get a move on and grab a glass of champagne already!” Read more...

Hamlet: “the Devil made them do it” version

Ten years ago, my flatmates and I had an ongoing conversation about doing a horror production of Hamlet where the Ghost really was a devil. In Act Two, Hamlet wonders if the Ghost is an evil spirit preying on his depression:

The spirit that I have seen
May be a devil: and the devil hath power
To assume a pleasing shape: yea, and perhaps
Out of my weakness and my melancholy,
As he is very potent with such spirits,
Abuses me to damn me.

and we thought it could be fun to see what would happen if he was right to wonder that. Read more...

All the theatre I saw in 2016, ranked

(nb: most of this was written on the train on New Year’s Eve, so “last night” = Dec 30th.)

In 2016 I saw 41 plays (and three staged readings, which were interesting but it feels unfair to put in with the rest because they’re not supposed to be fully realised pieces of theatre). Drunk Theatre stalwart Louisa and I tried to clear out the bottle-ends in the booze cabinet before the New Year, and carried out the immense task of force-ranking all our 2016 plays with Post-It notes. (for the record if you are also looking to clear out your drinks bottles, the “Monkey Gland”, a 1920s? cocktail involving grenadine and absinthe, was surprisingly all right.)

Bottom to top: Read more...

Hamlet Maxine Peake poster

Hamlet at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester

Hamlet Maxine Peake poster

Making friends in the day-ticket queue is such an excellent way to start a morning.

My friend Meg and I were in Manchester on Saturday, and decided to try for tickets to Maxine Peake playing Hamlet. We got to the Royal Exchange Theatre a little after 8am, where there were about 30 people in the queue for 34 pairs of tickets. The next people to join were a nurse who’d just come off the midnight shift, and a local man who comes to all the shows with his wife and queues so she doesn’t have to (we should all have such loved ones). Read more...

Photo by Dmitri Matvejev

Globe to Globe: Hamlet in Lithuanian (Lithuania)

So it turns out I don’t really get on with Eastern European theatre. This is a shame, because it’s  The Next Big Thing in London theatre apparently (as everyone who saw Three Kingdoms will tell you) and I’m sure it’s very exciting if you are into it, but it gets a big old ‘meh’ from me, which is unfortunate because I am SO INTO weird pretentious experimental theatre in theory, I just find it a bit difficult in practice.

This may be the result of a module I took as a drama studies major, where a European artist collective led us in a “devised theatre practice” in which I pretended to hang myself with a keyboard cord to Daft Punk  and a classmate dropped trou and mimed sexual intercourse with a watermelon, which we then smashed on the stage and consumed while I played an Irish polka on the fiddle. (For the record, I received a first-class mark in the module.)

Read more...