Tuesday, 3 March 2020

Well versed... Love, Loss & Chianti, Riverside Studios

Can't you now somehow contrive
to be both dead and alive?

The first part of this dramatized compilation of Christopher Reid’s poetry starts off with one of the most forensically calm descriptions of the moment of loss you’ll find. For anyone who has been with a loved one during the moments of their death, Reid’s ability to capture the moment is fearless and kind. I’d hang a positive review upon that opening engagement and the eloquence that linked the entire audience. But, Love, Loss & Chianti is truly a play of two halves and after the seriousness of A Scattering you’re left punch-drunk by a bravura performance of self-loathing from Robert Bathurst as a fifty-something copy editor, part time poet and full-time fantasist trying to rekindle lost love  with his ex, played by Rebecca Johnson who looks on aghast as The Song of Lunch turns out to be a drunken lament.

Reid wrote A Scattering in response to his wife’s death and the day after he finished, he wrote The Song of Lunch looking for “a light farce” that might provide an antidote for three years of grief. You can see why the two work so well together and why Bathurst was so passionate about bringing them to the stage. You have to face your grief but you also need to laugh again and it is a joy to watch Bathurst and Johnson addressing such divergent emotion with such skill and grace; they have a great chemistry and you sense the leveraging of their mature experience as they deliver Reid’s poetry as naturally as prose; something I imagine is just as hard to do with comedy as with tragedy.

Robert Bathurst and Rebecca Johnson (all photographs Alex Harvey-Brown)
After its humbling opening A Scattering addresses the jumbled narrative of a mind in grief. The poem was written in four parts, the first of which was written whilst Reid’s wife Lucinda was still alive and they were on holiday in Crete. The poetry touches on the joys and sadness of this last opportunity and the ability we all have to allow those extreme emotions to co-exist. Bathurst plays with care and gives a dignity to Reid’s words just as Johnson gives full life to Lucinda, a woman of fierce energy who the poet wonders, was able to do two or three things at once even learning Greek as she exercised on a static bike. Why, he wonders, could she not also be dead and alive?

The words are honest and forthright and they also skilfully avoid self-pity and attempt a constructed view of reconciled loss and humanity. Lucinda may be gone but, having donated her body to science, the poet likes to walk past the facility where his wife now works, helping perhaps, to cure the disease that took her from him.

Seriously, though, what will they say when they look back at our demythologised age?

The Song of Lunch is a journey from disappointed sobriety to drunken delusion and anyone who has seen Mr Bathurst’s work knows that this is well within his range. This is the funniest poetry I’ve seen for some time and the narrative journey is so well paced as our hero goes for broke in a reunion lunch with his ex-lover.

He selects the Italian restaurant in Soho where they used to go, 7, 10, 15 years ago and finds it changed just as the rest of the area has been, almost all interest driven out by rising rents and corporate creep. He missed the endless lunches of the old days as most of us do in publishing… personally I connected a lot with this sequence! I do remember the eighties…

Sadly the restaurant is no longer what it was and even the old bottles of Chianti no longer come in their raffia enclosures, whilst old Italian waiters have been replaced by young people from everywhere and the clientele are made up of boozy boys from Wardour Street ad agencies.
Out to lunch at his own lunch?!
As his ex arrives, Rebecca Johnson dressed to impress, as a well-off Parisian housewife, with two sons and married to Bathurst’s nemesis, a successful author. As the two fail to connect the Chianti flows one way and our hero’s inner dialogue gets more and more deranged as his shots get longer and longer. It’s a masterclass in comedy with a heart and, again, a situation many have found ourselves in, not so much drunk and disorderly in Soho than disappointed and disconnected; much in need of a rude awakening.

Jason Morell directs and allows his players to make full use of the Riverside’s space as well as the gift of Reid’s verse. Charles Peattie’s innovative animations are also very striking as they are projected in sympathy on the back wall of the stage. The designs are more abstract for the first part and amusingly specific for the drunken lunch showing in desperate caricature, the drunken illusions of our self-punishing poet. Priest clearly wanted to make himself the butt of his own joke.

IThankYou Theatre rating: **** An outstanding double-header from two fine actors at the top of their game bringing the sometimes-painful truths of Reid’s poetry to life in front of our very eyes.

Love, Loss and Chianti plays at the Riverside until Sunday 17th May and, as a publishing professional for over thirty years… I would urge you all to go and see it. Details on the Riverside website. They have a great view of the Thames as well.

But Soho itself has changed,
the speciality food shops
pushed out of business,
tarts chased off the streets,
and a new kind of trashiness
moving in:
cultureless, fly-by-night.

Saturday, 22 February 2020

So close… Far Away, Donmar Warehouse

Caryl Churchill’s plays are so diverse it’s difficult to pin down her style other than a brutal honesty mixed with strong characterisation and healthy humour. This play was first produced in 2000 and its vision of a Britain involved in a war on home turf and with martial law and public execution part of the entertainment of a ruthless single state, is far more frightening twenty years on. Maybe we just don’t see things as clearly as this playwright or we just delude ourselves harder but the hostile environment on display is all too believable.

The play is short – 40 minutes - as well as, ahem, being nasty and brutish and, personally, it has the aftertaste of a novella when there was perhaps more to say. It’s based on three sequences and whilst the first has the biggest shock value and the second has the most spectacular set-piece, the final section plays a little flat in comparison especially when the humour and horror that is balanced so well before this point breaks down to some plain daft ploys about animals and the weather being involved in the war. I get the point but not the continuous joke.

Jessica Hynes (Photo, Johan Persson)
The performances are very strong throughout and not least from young Sophia Ally as young Joan who features in the first section as she examines a large metal block that occupies the central stage. The block is raised revealing her Auntie Harper (Jessica Hynes) hard at work sewing; this is a time of make do and mend and more besides as the inquisitive Joan has already discovered on her first day staying out in the country. Joan has seen far more than she should and her question and answer with Harper is so well constructed, as every time the grown up thinks they have come up with a convincing way of explaining strange events away, they are demolished by something even darker the youngster has seen. Why was Uncle hiding those people, why was he hitting them and why were they crying? The brutality of the near-future Britain is revealed through the forensic cross-examination of a child.
Aisling Loftus and Simon Manyonda (Photo Johan Persson)
In the next section an older Joan (Aisling Loftus) is just starting her career as a milliner, making a glorious green feathered hat alongside Todd (Simon Manyonda) a more experimental and experienced man who explains the uncomfortable truth about the place they work. Their conversation hints at routine issues with workplace communication and employee relations and, again, we only gradually find out what they are doing and why.

The stage keeps on darkening to delineate the passing of days and every time the hats get bigger and more elaborate a visual gag that is only setting us for the darkest and most spectacular reveal of the play.

From there it’s only the final act as Joan returns to her Aunt’s home with Todd and more of the future Britain’s realities are set out in sharp relief to that off-kilter humour.

IThankYouTheatre rating: *** Director Lyndsey Turner has created some startling moments and the staging makes the most of the Donmar’s intimacy but for me the intensity wavers in the final third.

Far Away plays at the Donmar until 28th March – booking details on their website.

Wednesday, 19 February 2020

Stardust we are… Nearly Human, Perhaps Contraption, Vault Festival

We are like butterflies that flutter for a day and think it is forever…

Jimi Hendrix was so impressed having seen the band Chicago in 1969 that he said their horn section played like it was a single set of lungs. Well, from where I was sat tonight, Perhaps Contraption also have two collective lungs, along with a single-minded purpose - a powerfully syncopated mix of movement, words and something like a Vulcan musical mind-meld. This band is so tight and so joyously in tune with each other, their subject and their hugely appreciative audience that you cannot fail to move with them.

I’d seen the band before playing, amongst other things, the most outrageously arranged version of Radiohead’s National Anthem, all perfect be-bop phrasing mixed with a muscularity that one sensed owed at least something to the early jazz-prog of Robert Wyatt Soft Machine, Caravan and King Crimson – as confirmed by Artistic Director also flautist/vocalist/guitarist/tenor sax and contact juggler, Christo Squier after the show. But this is truly progressive music that has modern sensibilities and a desire to make something different.

It’s music as forward-thinking as Carl Sagan, an astrophysicist credited with helping to inspire this cosmic take on life, the universe and the sousaphone… No one else sounds quite like Perhaps Contraption and it’s hard to see many other bands taking on the subject of physics for a stage show that is also being turned into a concept album and, personally, I hope it’s a double and on vinyl too.

The performance starts, appropriately enough with Iain McDonald appearing like a Sousaphone Spaceman and explaining how we’re all so remarkably lucky and unlikely to be here. This is more than just a reference to the irregularity of Southern Rail services – the Vault festival is based in the cavernous underbelly of Waterloo Station, literally and underground festival… but the fact that our atoms, the enamel in our teeth, the nitrate in our digestive tract and the oxygen in our lungs has all come from the heart of stars long ago.

If ever there was a time to think about Man’s insignificance in the vast improbabilities of space, now is surely it. A repeated refrain from the band and the recorded narrators is that extinction is the norm and that survival is the exception and we simply shouldn’t take that for granted.

There are as many molecules in a single cell of DNA as there are stars in a typical galaxy...

Not that the band are giving us a PC lecture, they are simply celebrating our improbability and urging us to move onwards. Their songs have hooks to burn and they play with such movement and feeling with instruments rarely associated with dance. So it is that even glockenspiel and vibraphonist Amy Kelly plays on the move whilst bass trombonist Yusuf Narcin duels with Mickey McMillan and his trade-mark orange trombone. The King of Jazz, Paul Whiteman’s band may have swung but these guys dance and play as one courtesy of movement direction from Christa Harris and Lucy Ridley.

There so much light and dynamic shade in the group’s music helped by the range of instruments with Jin Theriault’s soprano sax a relatively recent introduction and also a variety of lead vocalists from Christo and Mickey’s masculine lines to tenor sax player Stephanie Legg and French horn player Letty Stott. The band sing close harmonies crowded forward on the playing are while the soloists hold back or mount the steps in the aisles; every inch of the theatrical space is used like a contrapuntal planetarium.

The sound is anchored by the combination of Iain’s bass voice and his sousaphone along with Riccardo Castellani’s drums; on some gigs the band feature mobile drums on a pram but here he has too much kit to wonder far.

The band provided a chart showing how the songs progress from the nature of our atomic particles – The person you love is 72.8% water… so drink them deep! – through a consideration of our place in this universe to the ultimate need to continue our particle journey far into space. A someone who grew up on scientist visionaries like Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke as well as Carl Sagan it is music of the spheres to my eager ears. Science fiction was never about escape it was about hope and now more than ever we need more of that.

IThankYouTheatre Rating: ***** This is vibrant, imaginative and playful performance with a hybrid of happy contemplative drama with lung-busting, body-impacting sound! I’m going back to see it again and I’m taking as many of my friends and family whose particles aren’t nailed to the ground.

We are, each of us, a little universe.

Nearly Human plays at the Vault Festival until this Sunday 23rd February – I urge you to get on quick and book tickets now. Details on the festival website!

You can also follow developments from the band on their website and here’s the link to that splendid version of National Anthem… try getting that out of your head!

More details of the band and their previous works on the PC website here.

Saturday, 15 February 2020

Pedigree chums... The Dog Walker, Jermyn Street Theatre

Pekingese are very good listeners which is more than can be said for most humans…

Paul Minx says his plays tend to stay with him, slowly marinating as the characters take over and begin to write themselves. The two in this play had their origins in the Nineties and, like lost dogs, have followed him through to their being wrote into existence for this quietly visceral and affecting play.

It was worth the wait as both dog walker Herbert Doakes and his client Keri, feel rounded and of such substance that they can hold contradictions as well as secrets even from the close-quarters audience in the Jermyn Street Theatre. Both take turns in being infuriating and almost utterly lost, propping themselves up with drink and drugs as well as the fantasy realities of work, irony and religion. As Keri says, “wounds heal but grief does not”, and Herbert, denying the failure of his marriage and Keri, blaming herself for a child’s death – caught in the cross-fire in front of her apartment – both try to lose themselves, to hide from their loss.

Minx’s dialogue is like vintage screwball pepped up with contemporary cussing and so well handled by both leads. Victoria Yeates makes for a febrile Keri, a role that could easily slip into ironic self-pity but she skilfully holds enough back to gain our sympathy and runs through so much emotional complexity when her relationship with Herbert begins to change in some alarming ways. The same can be said for Andrew Dennis as the more ostensibly comic Doakes, a man holding himself together through the disciplines of his dog walking job – Pups International – as well as self-help books such as The Seven Habits of Highly Successful Jamaicans. His story almost mirrors Keri’s as he goes from self-controlled/in denial to hard-floored reality over the course of the play’s three “movements” … music is ever present before and during the story and it is indeed a symphony of grief.

Andrew Dennis, all photographs courtesy of Robert Workman
“I am the most emotionally responsive dog walker in the district. I scored 4.8 on the City Empathy Test.”

At the start of the play we find Keri locked in self-pity as she drinks herself into a haze and dopes herself to meet the deadlines writing the e-books, such as Seven Habits… that people like Herbert read. She has a Pekingese dog, a bitch called Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Herbert arrives to take it for the contractually required 28 minutes’ walk. But Keri is being evasive – drunk and disorderly – playing games with Herbert and greeting him on all fours barking like a dog.

Herbert recoils and recounts the numerous colleagues who simply refuse to take on one of the company’s more difficult customers. It soon emerges why Keri is so awkward as she explains about witnessing the child’s murder and being haunted by the Ghost Girl who she feels getting ever closer to avenging the transition from humanity to becoming a fatality

Herbert is a man of many facets, in addition to working as a janitor he also has a college degree and is able to receipt Spenser’s Faerie Queene and yet he lacks spontaneity and holds himself tightly within the bounds of Christian and professional duty. He bangs heads uncomprehendingly against the quicksilver wit of Keri who is so free spirited she is deeply lost, bewildering him with depths of atheistic nihilism. Finally, Herbert becomes concerned with the dog’s health and says he needs to file a UPR – Unwell Pet Report – before, finally, we find out why Wolfgang isn’t really ready for her walk, as she is now an ex- Pekingese.

Herbert becomes more of a tragi-comic figure in the middle section as he ostensibly returns to give Keri the “cremains” of Wolfgang only for her to throw the urn out of her window. He has bought some of his “mummy’s” jerk chicken – or jerk-off chicken as Keri has it, as a way of connecting but she’s not buying it. Herbert then talks of his relationship difficulties with his wife Julia and asks for Keri’s help in learning how to properly “pet” her… he crosses the line and the intensity darkens between the two as Keri repeatedly asks him to leave.

Victoria Yeates and Andrew Dennis. Photo Robert Workman
It’s only in the spectacular final third that we truly understand these characters and what exactly they are trying to hold together. That’s skilful work from the playwright but the actors have to perform it and they both achieve the significant transitions required and, as has been noted elsewhere, these are two characters you really come to care about. Harry Burton directs with precision and sympathy whilst Isabella Van Braeckel’s set design turns the Jermyn stage into a steamy Manhattan apartment drenched in the desperate hope that, against all the odds, redemption is still possible.

IThankYouTheatre Rating: **** The Dog Walker is as honest as the long summer days are long in New York City and that is why you laugh with and care so much about these brittle souls; we all like dogs but most of all we crave unconditional love. That’s one thing this smart production deserves too.

The Dog Walker plays at the JST until Saturday 7th March, tickets via their box office.

Monday, 10 February 2020

They fought the law... Time, Tristan Bates Theatre

If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime…

Before the play starts we hear various South London voices talking about various capers including a poor fella who tried to crown a turf accountant with a cosh hidden in a newspaper only for it to fly out as the News of the World landed with a whimper and not a bang.

Michael Head’s new play is based on tales from the underground not unrelated to those his Grandad used to tell; stories from an age of criminal chivalry which still fascinates a time, as the older character Waldorf (David Schaal) relates, when there were rules and honour among thieves. Waldorf knew the Richardsons and a code of conduct that rationalised the violent side of their work as the only means of protecting the good people in their lives; family and friends, from men like themselves.

The Code meant that they would only ever battle their own and that innocents would never be harmed. The Krays, he reckons, we “unstable” and too interested in fame and a film star lifestyle whereas the Nashes, Frankie Fraser and the Richardsons followed the rules. It’s hard not to see this as a meditation on working class Britain or make that just Britain; what happened to our loyalties?

David Schaal and Michael Head
Four men meet up in a pub called The End of the World, jokingly referred to as the depths of South London Waldorf would go to get a drink bought for him. They’ve been on the run in various safe houses waiting for the heat to die down after a botched robbery and have met in this boozer owned by Slipps (Michael Head) who is so called because he has, so far, avoided doing any time.

He’s first there of course before being joined by Waldorf, a tall charismatic gangster who is their connection to the golden era of the sixties. The walls of the pub are lined with family photographs and the two reminisce about Slipps’ Uncle Mick as well as his Auntie who Waldorf romanced after Mick passed away. There are also notices of various family misdemeanours including Slipps’ Mother’s banning from Morrisons for illicit stock-taking. Some of these tales are true and from Head’s own family lore and that adds to the telling; this feels like a celebration of the extended family values many of us shared from the sixties and seventies when people mostly lived where they grew up and everybody had at least one dodgy Uncle Les and at least a couple of Aunty Flo’s.

The wise-cracking Fisherman (Daniel O'Reilly) is next up, ten minutes late because he hates waiting for people… He’s a total “rise taker” and kicks into his mate Slipps from the off with some delicious banter that makes you want to pull up a chair and grab a glass of that whiskey yourself. He reserves his fiercest barbs for the superbly named Prozac (Paul Danan) who is last to arrive and first to get the blame for the job just gone South.

Paul Danan and Daniel O'Reilly
Prozac, so-called for his addiction to every drug going, lives on his nerves and was panicked into using the gun taken only for show, during the raid, firing off “like John Wayne on crack…” aka Grand Theft Arsehole (I am going to borrow that next time I hit the M25!). Prozac claims the coppers started firing first but no one else remembers anything other than his mistake.

Things calm down as the whiskey kicks in and Fisherman lays out some generous lines of white powder and we get more excellently crafted stories and group interplay. Michael Head writes great, natural dialogue and, as with his previous plays, Worth a Flutter and The Greater Game, the shared narratives are the strongest, pulling you in with a smile as you recognise the bond between these mates.

The men discuss how crime has changed and how imprisonment was not only an occupational hazard it also helped you establish new contacts and relationships for more escapades once outside. Thus, is it that drugs suppliers help Uncle Mick develop his pharmaceutical business in South London – although strictly without heroin, another part of The Code. Prozac became pally with a lad called Pretty Face, and when they were outside, “getting properly pissed like Liverpool town centre on dole day…” (in fairness, it doesn’t have to be pay day, it can be any day), he reintroduced him to old school pal Slipps.

And so, bonds are formed and the boys go about their business; doing their best to make sure their families have different choices. Slipps has two daughters and doesn’t want them ending up with his lot; he needs to leave them a legacy.

Cracks start to show between Prozac and the others and they become more aggressive and open – it’s not just the coke talking though and there are deeper truths about family and love to be revealed.

The Time Team...
IThankYouTheatre Rating: **** You won't find a more compelling or entertaining night out with the lads anywhere else in the West End! Great characters and smashing stories.
Time is a very passionate play and the gang of four inhabit the roles with fulsome conviction (well, they’ve been sent down enough times…). Director Joe Withers makes the very most of the Tristan Bates intimacy and the biggest laugh of the night cam after a deft ad lib from Mr O'Reilly after a line from Mr Danan that speaks volumes for the tightness of this cast!

Time is only playing this week and is already sold out on some days so get in quick, it’d be a crime if you missed it! Details on the TBT/Actors Centre website.

I used to work with Ronnie and Reggie’s niece, she used to say her Nan would get her to behave by threatening to get her uncles onto her. So, if you know what’s good for you, get yourself down to Time as soon as!

Saturday, 18 January 2020

Splendid isolation... Beckett Triple Bill, Jermyn Street Theatre

Ah, it was a grand evening to be called Joyce in the Jermyn Street Theatre as Trevor Nunn presented three short plays by Samuel Beckett, an Irishman who often wrote in French but always thought in Irish, with an Irish cast plus one Mancunian.

The staging of these three quite distinct but thematically linked plays was stark and brave making the most of the JST’s intimacy whilst still somehow leaving the players so isolated. In Krapp’s Last Tape, Krapp (James Hayes) is lit by a single overhead light as he huddles over his reel to reel; the darkness makes him feel less alone, he says, yet it serves to accentuate his isolation and a course he has chosen if not exactly welcomed.

In Eh Joe, the titular character (Niall Buggy) is filmed by a video camera which is simultaneously projecting the recording onto the wall behind. It’s very powerful as the actor’s wordless performance is magnified as he listens to imagined the voice of an old lover (a chilling vocal performance from Lisa Dwan who I’m sure left shards of broken glass on the floor of the recording booth…) slowly break him down into tears.

Niall Buggy (Joe). Photo Robert Workman
The press night was packed and the run is nearly sold out already and it’s not hard to see why; this was a masterclass of acting and directing in the kind of space the minimalist Beckett would have loved for his one and two-handed plays. All three plays deal with memory from the point of view of men nearing the end of their lives; there’s intense loneliness, palpable regret and bitterness but also humour; these situations are funny no matter how dark they seem.

In Krapp’s Last Tape, a 69-year old man listens back to recordings he made at 39 when he had seemingly found his motivation for writing whilst at the same time losing out in a relationship that could have gone on a lot longer. He tells himself he does not regret the passing of his youth in the tape and in the present day says the same thing even as he winces at his own vocalisation of creative hope. I loved the patient staging here and the long moments of silence as Krapp goes around his desk to unlock his drawers revealing a banana; pretty much the first sound he makes is to cry out after he slips on the discarded peel.

James Hayes (Krapp). Photo Robert Workman
Eh Joe is altogether bleaker as Joe slowly but surely breaks down as the powerful voice of his dead wife cuts through his defences, hacking away at his silent resistance and relishing his wasted years. Let’s hope we’re kinder to ourselves when the time comes but this was extraordinary powerful theatre and Mr Buggy was mesmerising.

In comparison, The Old Tune was light relief as two old pals meet by chance and share misaligned memories of their past. In fairness Mr Cream (David Threlfall) has trouble remembering his grandchildren let alone previous decades and his pal Gorman (Niall Buggy) is little better, their recall about as reliable as Gorman’s malfunctioning barrel organ. Time is passing them by just as relentlessly as the constant stream of modern motor cars that often interrupt their discourse. Just two old fellas wondering what became of the people they used to be.

A tip of the hat to Louie Whitemore's atmospheric set and costume design as well as Max Pappenheim’s sound which plays such a vital role in all three plays especially in capturing every crack and syllable of Lisa Dwan’s voice and foregrounding the relentless rumble of progress passing by Cream and Gorman.

David Threlfall (Mr Cream). Photo Robert Workman
IThankYou Theatre Rating: ***** Pure concentrate of Beckett that gives the audience the full flavour of his words and intent thanks to excellent staging and genuinely astonishing performances.

Friday, 17 January 2020

Jazzed Shakespeare… Hamlet: Rotten States, Hope Theatre, 6FootStories

The play’s the thing
Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king.

The 6FootStories company have a mission statement “to create bold, exciting pieces of theatre that bend the rules of reality. We like to throw ordinary people into extraordinary circumstances, and explore the big ideas along the way, like LIFE and DEATH and FAITH.” Well, we got all of that in the most unpredictable of evenings in N5 during which Brian Blessed – although he was never present – was revealed to be Hamlet’s father!

The trick with deconstructing and then exploding Shakespeare is that you need to be able to perform it too and this the magnificent trio of Amy Fleming, Will Bridges and Jake Hassam do with aplomb, grounding this runaway reality in the lines of the play. They can improvise around the words as easily as Charlie Parker or Kamasi Washington can take flight with a tune but as with the jazzmen they know the formalities perfectly well.

At one point, Jake Hassam (who along with fellow performer-writer Nigel Munson, set up the company) coaches Amy Fleming’s character in the performance of one famous soliloquy; she goes loud, she goes soft until she get’s it reasonably right. The trio are playing gypsies who have been given instructions by Prince Hamlet to perform a play that, by telling how Hamlet’s father was killed, will reveal the true killer, the King’s brother, by his reaction and possibly that of his wife, Hamlet’s mother and the dead King’s Queen. So far so Shakespeare but the 6Footers take this all in their stride and weave a completely new narrative between their entry and exit in the original play.

Jake Hassam, Amy Fleming and Will Bridges All photographs by Matthew Koltenborn
Whereas Tom Stoppard took minor characters, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, and explained their battle against fate, here the players are allowed to offer a meditation on the nature of the play highlighting some of what A-level scholars have long termed the awkward bits; Ophelia’s drowning/suicide, Laertes gullibility and the earnest Prince’s inability to kill in cold blood.

All of this is achieved through a mixing desk controlling a glitched, electronic score and also containing a variety of props; Gertrude is played by a polystyrene bust and she wears it well. It’s all so well pitched and perfectly timed – wasn’t it The Bard himself who said that was the essence of all good humour? Or maybe it was Michael McIntyre or someone funny at any rate.

The end result has the audience laughing in between giving thought to what some of the arcane original text actually means which is the greatest tribute. This company have made Shakespeare accessible without lampooning him just “remixing” him.

IThankYou Theatre Rating: **** The fastest Hamlet you’ll see, fast enough to be in the West End, with perfectly controlled sprints from each performer in and around the original text. Quite extraordinary and very funny! I mean, the state of Denmark!

Hamlet: Rotten States plays at the Hope until 1st February – full details on their website.