The Royal Shakespeare Company bring Hamlet to Hull

Following a critically acclaimed run in Stratford-upon-Avon in 2016, Shakespeare’s Hamlet will take to the stage at Hull New Theatre from 13 to 19 February 2018 as part of a UK-wide tour.

Directed by Simon Godwin, associate director of the National Theatre, the play juxtaposes the Shakespearian classic by setting the storyline in a modern state, taking inspiration from Ghana, West Africa. Godwin’s fresh interpretation of ideas, themes and characters in the traditional storyline include Paapa Essiedu’s casting as the first black actor to play leading role of Hamlet. Paapa is British with Ghanaian heritage and was able to draw upon his roots and sense of cultural identity in the role. He won Best Performance in a Play at the UK Theatre Awards in 2016 for his contribution.

Essiedu’s other Royal Shakespeare Company credits include Edmund in King Lear, Fenton in The Merry Wives of Windsor, and The Mouse And His Child. Additional theatre credits include King Lear (National Theatre) and Romeo and Juliet (Tobacco Factory).

Godwin is best-known for directing Royal Shakespeare Company’s The Two Gentlemen of Verona and Richard II with Shakespeare’s Globe, along with Twelfth Night, Man And Superman, The Beaux’ Stratage and Strange Interlude at the National Theatre.

Godwin stated, “When Paapa and I talked about the production, I realised how radical it might be to see Denmark through the lens of a completely different culture, a culture that Paapa himself had experienced. I began to imagine a Denmark re-conceived as a modern state influenced by the ritual, traditions and beauty of Ghana.  Our setting is full of the colour, emotional intensity and passion associated with that part of the world.”

“As Hamlet, Paapa is intelligent, youthful and charismatic, with a contemporary wit.  But Paapa’s portrayal is also mercurial with an element of danger. Part ghost story, part family tragedy, part dark comedy, Hamlet is an urgent and gripping thriller. I can’t wait to see how audiences respond to it around the country.”

Paapa commented: “When you have the privilege of playing Hamlet, you have to infuse it with your sense of being, your own sense of identity and your experience.  When Hamlet talks about his relationship with his mother, his father, his brother, his girlfriend – they are all relationships that I’ve had and they inform how I imaginatively create those relationships with the character.”

He added: “I haven’t had the privilege of spending time in Hull yet, but of course I’m aware of its status as the City of Culture, and a good friend of mine runs Middle Child Theatre Company, so I’ve seen a couple of their plays which revolve around working class lives in Hull.

Alongside its run of Hamlet, the Royal Shakespeare Company will run two family workshops on 13 Feb. The first (11am-11.45am) is suitable for children aged 4 to 8 and their parent or guardian and will introduce youngsters to the scenes and themes of Hamlet through simple rehearsal techniques. The second (2pm-3.30pm) is suitable for children aged 8 to 12 and their parent or guardian and will see participants discover the stories and themes of Hamlet and work as an actor does, on their feet. Sessions cost £3.50 per adult and £2.50 per child. You can book tickets at the Hull City Hall box office or call 01482 300306

Tickets for Hamlet at Hull New Theatre start at £10 with concessions available.