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Aran commands the stage as doomed Hamnet

November 21, 2018

 

 Hamnet, Warwick Arts Centre, 20-22 November.

Young Hamnet is confused. He wants to be a great man, like his absent Dad, but he's been eleven for years and years.

 Of course, we know why Hamnet has never got older than eleven. He died at that age as his Dad, William Shakespeare, tried and failed to reach him in time to say goodbye. And there's a powerful sense of grief and abandonment in this innovative take on that old story by Dublin's Dead Centre theatre company.

 Why did you go away? he asks, as he conjures his Dad from the darkness. Who's this Hamlet and how many children died in your plays, he wants to know, but even Googling the question on his phone won't tell him that.

 A technical hitch held up the start of this performance by a few minutes and I'm not surprised. There's a dazzling array of high-tech trickery here that goes well beyond standard back projection and on occasion drew a gasp from the audience.

 But at the heart of the piece is a terrific performance by Aran Murphy, who's the same age as the character he plays, but handles the doomed innocence of Hamnet with a maturity well beyond his years. A sudden foray into the song lyrics of Johnny Cash and one of Donald Trump's less repeatable sayings, plus a flash of male nudity from Dad, threatens for a moment or two to take us a bit too far into quirky, but Aran's quiet control of the stage restores the equilibrium.

 Worth catching.

Tickets at www.warwickartscentre.co.uk or from the box office on 024 7652 4524.

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