Reviews, Stage, Theatre

Hamlet: Prince of Skidmark by the Listies review (Wharf 1 Theatre, Sydney)

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Richard Higgins and Matt Kelly have been superstars of children’s comedy since they made their first kids show together as the Listies in 2009. They’re extraordinarily silly, surprisingly smart, bring the audience into the action, and never miss on opportunity to find the funny in bodily functions.

Now they’ve made it onto the Sydney Theatre Company mainstage with their “badaptation” of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, co-created with and directed by Declan Greene.

Matt and Rich are our ushers at the top of the show, welcoming us to a “confrontingly traditional”, but very well-received, staging of Hamlet. But they soon realise that the cast has been struck down by a strange food poisoning disease known as the “brown plague”.

So they decide to perform the show themselves so that the audience hasn’t wasted their time or money. The only problem is, Richard has accidentally eaten some of the cheese which poisoned the cast and only has an hour until his guts will turn to liquid and evacuate via every available outlet.

This is going to be a rather quick Hamlet.

There’s not a single dead spot in the show, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen an audience of children so entirely enthralled for an hour-long performance. There are plenty of chances for the audience to participate, whether that be shouting back or hurling projectiles at the actors. While the participation and some of the style has its roots in pantomime, the Listies have plenty of contemporary references — even Donald Trump, avant-garde theatre and negative gearing policy get an airing.

And although there have been plenty of attempts made in recent years to create more feminist-friendly readings of Hamlet, Matt and the show’s stage manager/substitute actor Olga Miller aren’t afraid to take the necessary liberties with the text to ensure Ophelia gets her revenge.

They’re in a constant battle with Richard, who wants to see the integrity of the 400-year-old play protected. But dinosaurs and space travel just make for more compelling drama, right?

If you want your kids to have fun at the theatre and fall for all its magic, get them to a Listies show as soon as possible. Even if you don’t have kids, but happen to be the type of adult who enjoys an excellent diarrhoea joke, it’s worth checking out — the tickets are substantially cheaper than any other STC show this year, to ensure young people can get along. But even not-so-young people should take advantage of the kid-friendly price. Nobody else makes Shakespeare this fun.

And a quick note to Bell Shakespeare and any other company thinking about tackling the Bard’s work: silly string and Shakespeare are a match made in heaven.

[box]Hamlet: Prince of Skidmark is at the Wharf 1 Theatre, Sydney until July 17. Featured image by Prudence Upton[/box]

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