A sulky teenager dressed in black sprawls aloft the raised platform of
his bunk-bed, going through his photo album on his ipad, which projects
enlargements onto a big screen on the other side of the room.
Everyone's in there; his mum, his best mates, one of his kind-of
girlfriend's selfies. Most significantly are the portraits of the boy's
dad, who died the week before, and his uncle, who his mum just married.
As the boy lays bare his plans to stab his uncle in revenge for the
killing of his dad, it becomes clear that he is a contemporary version
of Hamlet, and that the pictures projected in his room are of his mum
Gertrude, his best pal Horatio and his squeeze Ophelia. Then there's
his uncle, Claudius, who he calls Uncle C.
This is a neat trick in Iain Heggie's fresh look at the bard, performed
with youthful confidence by Sean Purden Brown in Heggie's own
production for Subway Theatre Company in association with Sico
Productions. Developed through improvisations with drama students at
Royal Conservatoire Scotland, Tragic takes Shakespeare's complex verse
and renders it in a demotic that, while still poetically vivid, is easy
enough for young actors to deliver and for audiences to get to grips
with without ambiguity.
If overdone this could be patronising for all concerned, but over
seventy-five minutes it becomes as current as the version of
Shakespeare's original currently running at the Citizens Theatre. In
his determined but ultimately self-destructive confessional, the figure
presented by Heggie and Purden Brown is as much Holden Caulfield as
Hamlet, and the play both his diary and his last words and testament.
The Herald, September 30th 2014