Shakespeare’s greatest tragedy stripped bare. Two hours of sex, comedy, murder & madness! Seven performers, two musicians and a talking dog!

“Scintillatingly Shakespearean, feverish and compelling.”
(The Scotsman)

An ensemble of seven performers, two musicians and a talking dog use minimal settings and maximum imagination to create a players’ Hamlet; a feast of raw acting power. Hamlet, often misconceived as a delicate melancholic, is here revealed as Shakespearean audiences saw him – the assured and angry avenger, disguising his true intentions behind the mask of insanity – a classic Man of Action.

An incredible Hamlet. George Dillon’s production brilliantly taps into the headlong madness of the play… It’s fast, physical and frequently hilarious. Unmissable.

Simon Merrells (Marcellus), George Dillon (Hamlet), Ross Gurney-Randall (Horatio). [Photo: Charlie Baker]

A fusion of theatrical traditions – European and Japanese, classical and modern – and a diverse range of music both live and recorded, ranging from Noh-inspired flute & drum, via Jazz saxophone and minimalist violin to the mock heroics of Sergio Leone and even Pulp Fiction! This Hamlet is, paradoxically, both uniquely original but also studiously faithful to Shakespeare and makes for a highly accessible, entertaining, and provocative theatrical experience.

George Dillon (Hamlet) and Denise Evans (Gertrude). [Photo: Charlie Baker]

I thought I knew Hamlet – until George Dillon got hold of it! His version starts with one of the most audacious decisions in theatrical history. I was deeply curious to see what Dillon would do with Hamlet, and now see what all his previous adulatory reviewers were on about. He is physical, intense, a chameleon of an actor. One moment he is tearing your heart out, the next he is clowning around. His unusual face can transform itself from tragic melancholy to malignant imp in a flash. Hamlet needs a dangerous actor to play him, and George Dillon is one such, with both the physical and vocal discipline to carry the whole thing off. I recommend it highly.

George Dillon (Hamlet), Beth Fitzgerald (Ophelia). [Photo: David Usill]

Scintillatingly Shakespearean, feverish and compelling, the production draws its inspiration, in terms of courtly hierarchy from Japan; the company come kitted out in vaguely Samurai costume, Hamlet and Laertes fling themselves into kendo combat, and impassive musicians sit at either side of an otherwise bare stage. In terms of acting, it is full throttle School of Berkoff; swift and brutal, the seven actors posturing, scuttling, roaring and whispering, snatching each moment for instant effect. Hurling aside the less-is-more style of acting, Dillon frequently gives us the exact reverse. His Hamlet, already hyperactive, is, when feigning madness, absolutely barking. Behind all this simmers a restless, constrained maverick, a natural fighter contemptuous of his fellow man and finally brought low by cool, malign authority. You can’t take your eyes off it for a second. Dillon’s performance bursts with swaggering vitality. It is never less than idiosyncratic, and alternately perverse, virile, willful, illuminating and extravagant, and sometimes all five at once. His vocal control is astonishing.

George Dillon as Hamlet. [Photo: Charlie Baker]

Supported by six actors and two musicians, George Dillon’s Hamlet first played to packed houses at the Komedia in Brighton in March 1995. With a change of king and queen, the production went open-air in June and July in Brighton’s Queen’s Park, Lewes Castle and the Hawth in Crawley. Another change of king and the production went back indoors at the Old Bull in Barnet, before a run at the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh.

I can honestly say George Dillon’s Hamlet is one of the most entertaining productions I’ve seen. It’s full of innovations. George is an exceptional talent and the role could have been written for him. Few productions of this play hold the attention as much as this because you never know quite what to expect.