Runtime: 3h 00m
When 25-year-old Paapa Essiedu played Hamlet in 2016 for the RSC it was the first time since 1961 that the company had showcased a black Hamlet. That’s quite an indictment of a leading national company. The good news is that Essiedu, most recently seen in The Passover at the Kiln and the Convert at the Young Vic and I May Destroy You on the BBC, is a really terrific prince, unexpectedly funny and playful, inclined towards teenage stroppiness and with an artistic bent that pays homage to Jean-Michel Basquiat. Simon Godwin’s production, which offers a Denmark by way of an unnamed African state, is bold and refreshing and while it confirms Essiedu as a real star it is full of insightful, interesting performances from the great Tanya Moodie as Gertrude to Natalie Simpson as a genuinely distressed and distressing Ophelia.
Sent by the ghost of his father to avenge his brutal death, Hamlet’s mission to expose the truth is a perilous journey of madness, murder and lost love. What will ultimately become of a young man sent to kill?