An exploration of the disenfranchisement of young men and how a good kid turns bad
A nationwide tour of a production of Shakespeare’s Hamlet with an all black cast is to be performed in Wandsworth this month.
Following the success of their first three productions, Macbeth, She Called Me Mother, and The Diary of a Hounslow Girl, Black Theatre Live in association with Watford Palace Theatre and Stratford Circus Arts Centre bringing the play to the Tara Theatre.
Inaugural winner of the Roland Rees Bursary Mark Norfolk’s adaptation casts Hamlet as a studious young black man who’s forced to face the realities of his social identity, and rages against the injustice of his position. Directed by Jeffery Kissoon, who has most notably worked for the RSC, the National Theatre, Robert Lepage, Peter Hall and Peter Brook, including Peter Brook’s Hamlet, the production is a fast-moving, contemporary version of the play.
An intelligent young student returns to discover the world he once knew has crumbled. Faced with the new king’s change in regime and religion, and implored to defend what is left of his father’s decaying legacy, Hamlet now faces the greatest moral challenge – to kill or not to kill.
The cast of nine is led by Raphael Sowole as Hamlet and Abiona Omonua as Ophelia. Raphael’s recent work includes the Almeida’s The Merchant of Venice, and Cheek By Jowl’s Tis A Pity She’s A Whore at the Barbican. Abiona’s credits include the Menier Chocolate Factory’s The Colour Purple, Legally Blonde in the West End, and Parade at the Southwark Playhouse.
Director Jeffery Kissoon said, “In Hamlet we reflect on the Black experience, anxieties, and sensibilities in a modern era. Shakespeare’s wonderfully rich text explores a tormented humanity, asking the searching questions of life and death faced head-on by a young Black Prince. 'Remember me' is the theme of this production: by saying 'Remember me', the ghost of Hamlet's father is urging Hamlet to remember not just him, but his background, heritage and all those that came before him”.
Jeffery Kissoon’s theatre credits include playing Antony opposite Kim Cattrall’s Cleopatra at the Liverpool Playhouse, Julius Caesar in Greg Doran’s production for the Royal Shakespeare Company and many Shakespearean and many classical roles under directors including Robert Lepage, Peter Brook, Peter Hall, Simon McBurney, Calixto Bieto, Nicholas Hytner and Trevor Nunn on productions such as Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth, The Tempest, The Caucasian Chalk Circle, The Mahabharata, Waiting for Godot and The Crucible. His film credits include Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Ham & The Piper, Dirty Pretty Things, Hamlet and on Television, Agatha Christie, Dalziel and Pascoe, Holby City, Casualty, Space 1999 and the recurring roles of Judge Anthony Abego in EastEnders in 2015, and Mr Kennedy in Grange Hill. As a director his work includes Ave Africa, an adaptation of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, The Meeting and Mark Norfolk’s plays Where The Flowers Grow, Naked Soldiers and Knock Down Ginger.
Mark Norfolk writes for film, theatre and radio. His recent films Shadow Gene, Ham and the Piper and Crossing Bridges which he wrote and directed, have won many international awards including a Screen Nation Film Production Award, Best Film and Director at Festfilm Kosovo, SevenArt Best Film, Best Feature Film at the Carmarthen Bay International Film Festival, Best Film at the Black International Cinema Festival and a Silver Chris Award at the Columbus International Film Festival. His theatre work includes Blair’s Children at the Cockpit Theatre, Wrong Place for Soho Theatre, Where The Flowers Grow, Naked Soldiers and Knock Down Ginger for the Warehouse Theatre and in 2015 he became the first recipient of the Alfred Fagon Award’s Roland Rees Bursary.
The threeyear programme from Black Theatre Live, now in its second year, brings performances from culturally diverse perspectives to venues across the country. The initiative is a partnership of Tara Arts, Derby Theatre, Queen’s Hall Arts (Hexham), the Lighthouse (Poole), Theatre Royal Bury St. Edmunds, Theatre Royal Margate, Stratford Circus Arts Centre (London) & Key Theatre (Peterborough).
October 18, 2016