Hamlet at the Festival of Chichester

Gavin Lister
Gavin Lister

Hamlet comes to Chichester’s Chichester Inn on July 10 at 7.45pm, courtesy of All The World’s A Space theatre company.

Gavin Lister, who will direct and play Hamlet, said: “We have set Hamlet in the 21st century in a family-run pub, a pub run by a very dysfunctional family. Gone are all the Danish royal references. My idea is to try to make it all accessible and identifiable to younger people and to a modern audience. The reason I have set it in a pub is to question how Hamlet and the other characters are driven to madness and the eventual suicide of Ophelia. I have put it all in very contemporary, identifiable terms.

“I find that the themes of the play, like jealously and guilt and self-pity and anger etc, fit in very well with the habitual behaviour of an active addict. In the modern context, we think about all that Hamlet has gone through.

“His dad has died. His dad has been murdered by his uncle, and he finds that his uncle has married his mother, and then he breaks up with his girlfriend.

“ A lot of productions have Hamlet playing around pretending to be mad. I think that the madness is real and that it is expressed as anger and self-pity. And in a family-run pub, I think it seemed obvious to make him an alcoholic.

“I have seen tons of Hamlets over the years, and I have seen quite a few where I have felt that we never get the full story of Ophelia. The tragedy in the play is the journey that Ophelia takes, the journey that drives her into this act of suicide.

“I have put the emphasis on Hamlet’s behaviour towards Ophelia which takes the tragedy and the sympathy away from Hamlet and makes him more of the cause of Ophelia’s serious state on her downward spiral.

“I have had to edit the play quite severely. I have brought it down from four and a half hours to just under two hours with an interval. There are eight or nine in the cast. I am really interested in immersive theatre. Immersive theatre is quite on trend at the moment.

“The audience sits in the seats of the pub, and the action takes place around them as if the audience were punters in the pub (of the play).”

Gavin, a professional actor, is based in Chichester. This show is the debut production for the company.

If all goes well, he envisages doing a couple of plays a year with the company: “After this Shakespeare, I will hope to run little classes for actors, all the stuff that I learnt at RADA, all the things that can help you with Shakespeare.”

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