The Man Who Was Hamlet

The comical, tragical, historical and utterly scandalous history of Edward de Vere… the true ‘William Shake-speare’?

“Amazing! Electrifying! Wicked!” ***** (FringeReview)
“Excellent! Wonderful!” ***** (BroadwayBaby)
“Fascinating! Spellbinding!” ***** (Fringeguru)
“Must see! Clever script, masterful performance!” (Stage)

With a brilliant script and a five-star performance from award-winning actor George Dillon, The Man Who Was Hamlet reveals the comical, tragical, romantic, historical and utterly scandalous history of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, the Elizabethan courtier, swordsman, adventurer, playwright and poet who many believe was the true author of the works of ‘William Shake-speare’.

It’s easy to see why Dillon’s performances have made him the toast of the Edinburgh Festival.  This was pared-down, intimate theatre demanding sheer bravery on the part of the actor, who takes the stage armed with nothing more than a skull, a rapier and an elaborate set of lighting cues.

British Theatre Guide

Who really wrote Hamlet? That is the question! Could it possibly have been the work of an untravelled, unschooled, tax-dodging grain-merchant, who could barely sign his own name? Or was Gulielmus Shakspere merely a cover for a secret writer, a man whose extraordinary life seems to be reflected in his works and who was a true and tragic Soul of the Age?

Written by George Dillon entirely in blank verse, and drawing upon a variety of historical sources, with an original musical score by Charlotte Glasson, in The Man Who Was Hamlet the dying Dane’s last words summon from hell the ghost of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, to draw his breath in pain and tell his own story.

An exciting piece of writing, witty and sharp, making delightful use of Shakespeare’s own lines in ways ironic, comedic and sometimes philosophical, and, as usual, we were treated to a masterclass in delivery and individual performance.


A brilliant but disgraceful aristocrat, Edward de Vere was a courtier, swordsman, adventurer, playwright and poet, who killed a servant, made love to Queen Elizabeth, abandoned his wife, got his mistress with child, was maimed in a duel, travelled in Italy, was captured by pirates, fought the Armada, was imprisoned in the Tower of London, kept two companies of players, but disappeared from history for fifteen years before he died virtually bankrupt.

In youth he was hailed as the best of the secret court writers, especially for comedy, but no plays bearing his name have survived and his poetry suddenly stopped after the first invention of… ‘William Shake-speare’.

Easily one of the best shows of the Fringe, this is a highly amusing account, with many hilarious anecdotes, yet encompasses what seems like every human emotion imaginable, and the audience feels like they are taking an emotional roller-coaster ride, as they go from laughter to pain, grief to insanity in what seems like a moment. Dillon’s performance is five stars and more. This production cannot be admired, complimented and recommended more.


The Man Who Was Hamlet previewed at the New Venture Theatre in Brighton in December 2008. After touring in 2009 and early 2010 the show played to five star reviews in Edinburgh in 2010. The following year saw more touring dates in the UK, a short run as part of the ‘Steven Berkoff presents’ season at the Riverside Studios in London, a couple of shows in Edinburgh as part of Dillon’s 21st Solo Anniversary season and an appearance at the Atlantic Festival in Halifax, Canada.

The last (118th) performance of The Man Who Was Hamlet was at the Kirkgate Centre in Cockermouth on 8th February 2014.

This actor, on the stage for an hour and a half, gave one of the most compelling performances I have seen at the festival… a lesson in the art of acting for any up and coming thespians.

Steven Berkoff