By Barbare Sturua

Why does the modern audience relate to Hamlet? Not because we are successors to the throne, or because our uncles murder our fathers, marry our mothers, and take over kingdoms. It is because Hamlet is a psychological tragedy. It is because the way our minds function is unchangeable and universal. Our subjectivity is inevitable and we see the world only from one specific point of view, that is ours. Mark Izzard’s adaptation of “Hamlet” directed by Selina Cadell makes it clear that the suffering that poor Hamlet goes through comes from within as we see every character of the play performed by Eddie Izzard. In this one-person production, performed at Greenwich House Theater, the audience sees the battles that the hero encounters are the inner turmoils that only Hamlet sees and no one else.

This also answers the everlasting question about the existence of Hamlet’s father’s ghost. It doesn’t exist, and neither do any other characters because it is all a manifestation of Hamlet’s psyche. We never know if anything really takes place, as the audience never physically sees the sword that murders the characters of the play including Hamlet. We never see Hamlet die even though he tells us “Oh, I die, Horatio”. At the end of the play, the door from the left-hand side of the stage opens up and a bright light shines onto the stage. But we never know if Hamlet walks through that door. 

Maybe Hamlet is not a successor to the throne at all and is just another person, who believes to be a king. Whether it’s Hamlet’s desire for revenge or Claudius’s want for power, Ophelia’s enormous love, or Rosencrantz and Guildenstern’s mistakes in friendship, these all exist in every one of us, making us humans. 

The set design by Tom Piper and lighting by Tyler Elich give the play a timeless quality. It is almost impossible to say whether it is an Elizabethan era or the play takes place now, which underscores the production’s ability to transcend historical contexts and resonate with contemporary audiences. The walls that have a stone quality change their colors as the characters reveal themselves through one actor. The dynamics of switching from one character to another is shown through music (by Eliza Thompson) and lighting that strikes the audience as a surprise. 

Eddie Izzard’s performance breaks with conventions of Shakespearean play making, showcasing incredible strength in a solo act lasting over two hours. The only time she leaves the stage is when she enters the audience. For example when Ophelia enters the parterre repeating the line “How should I your true love know”, searching for Hamlet with anger, love, and madness.

In the original play, Hamlet constantly battles patriarchal gender identity, he projects his insecurities on women he loves, and his masculinity is constantly questioned as he relies on emotions. But in Izzard’s “Hamlet”, the societal battles of gender identity are broken as we see the protagonist with long red nails, red lipstick, silver earrings, leather leggings, and a suit that compliments her waist. Eddie Izzard creates a hero who survives through cruel and misogynistic society and internalizes both Hamlet’s and Ophelia’s emotions that are oppressed by people around them. 

This Hamlet production happens to be the sixth Hamlet performance that I have seen and never have I encountered such laughter in the audience. There is a type of cynicism in how the language is delivered that allows the audience to take a step further from Hamlet’s tragedy and see it as a comedy.

HAMLET – by William Shakespeare; adapted by Mark Izzard and directed by Selina Cadell

WITH Eddie Izzard

The design team is Tom Piper (set), Tyler Elich (lighting), Tom Piper and Libby DaCosta (costume stylists), andDidi Hopkins (Movement Director).

 The Greenwich House Theater(27 Barrow Street) – Through March 16.  Tickets HERE