by Bob Eaton.

Queen’s Theatre Billet Lane RM11 1QT To 12 September.

Tue-Sat 8pm Mat 5 Sept 2.30pm.
Audio-described 5 Sept 2.30pm.
BSL Signed 9 Sept.
Runs 1hr 55min One interval.

TICKETS: 01708 443333.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 27 August.

Energetic musical celebration of hamlet, voice of youth and its music.
This new musical is good fun but might seem lightweight to Hornchurch audiences used to former Artistic Director Bob Carlton’s Shakespearean rock musicals, stuffed with lines from whichever play was Carlton’s source. In using Hamlet, Eaton shreds, and creatively alters, the plot and ignores virtually all the script.

He introduces a roving Ghost not confined to Elsinore (the dance-hall, that is) but taking an awayday to London to advise recently demobbed Johnny Hamlet to ’phone home. Which is how Johnny finds his father’s dead.

Fred Broom’s Ghost is a vengeful horror-show creature who insists that young Hamlet do in his mother Gertie as well as uncle Claud, thereby exceeding the demands made by Shakespeare’s Ghost.

This spirit looms culturally too, taking-on the mantle of Beethoven, whose presence looms over Polonius’ music-shop back in the Provinces. Eaton’s set his scene in 1956, where London led and the provinces had to catch up. And it’s the battle for rock music that’s central to the action.

The young ones need to overthrow the stuffy parental generation. Age rather than family aligns them, with 17-year old Ophelia secretly out dancing (quite where isn’t too clear). The most famous line in Hamlet becomes “To rock or not to rock; that is the question.” In various guises it’s asked throughout, long after the answer’s clear and the outcome inevitable.

Eaton craftily adapts Shakespeare’s story to make his generational point. Following a scene in a Clacton-on-Sea holiday-camp chalet, where the Ghost, amid some skilful cross-purposes dialogue, causes an inadvertent bust-up between Hamlet and his pregnant girlfriend, Johnny Hamlet discovers some plot-diverting truths and everyone prepares for an ending more in line with comedy than tragedy, including a gay couple finding love and moving to London.

Meanwhile, the music rocks on through Eaton’s fifties-style numbers, Cameron Jones’ Johnny handling music and microphone with assurance at the centre of a bright and confident cast. Director Matt Devitt moves things along on Rodney Ford’s spare-looking, adaptable set, while black-framed specs mark-out the conventional, shuffling crowd, Johnny discovering leather jackets along with a rock identity.

It’s a bright, light show, through-and-through.

Ghost: Fred Broom.
Auzzie: Gregory Clarke.
Waltzer/Horace: Daniel Healy.
Johnny Hamlet: Cameron Jones.
Guy: Adam Langstaff.
Gertie: Sarah Mahony.
Henry Polonius/Vicar: Steven Marwick.
Claud: Antony Reed.
Larry: Tom Sowinski.
Ronnie: Al Twist.
Ophelia: Lucy Wells.

Director: Matt Devitt.
Designer: Rodney Ford.
Lighting: Mark Dymock.
Sound: Rick Clarke.
Musical Director: Ben Goddard.
Choreographer: Valentina Dolci.

2015-08-28 11:40:42

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