BWW Reviews: THE MAN WHO WAS HAMLET, Riverside Studios, June 10 2011
It's not Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, whose face was the first on an English banknote, but William Shakespeare - The Bard himself. But what if Shakey had not written the plays, the sonnets, the phrases that wove the very fabric of the English language?
In his one-man show, George Dillon is Edward de Vere, all manic energy, aristocratic intriguing and royal schmoozing. As we hear of his rollercoaster life - with its uncanny parallels with that of Hamlet - there's plenty of in-jokes, as the celebrated lines crop up out of context. "To be or not to be" is just a musing question; "antic disposition" a handy description; and there's also a young, slightly mad girl singing a bawdy song to remind us that there's more to Hamlet than The Prince.
It's not absolutely necessary to be familiar with the play to enjoy the performance, though it certainly helps. Dillon contorts face and body to become an old courtier and, yes, a young Shakespeare and he's never more than five minutes away from another slice of darkest humour, as he gets the credit for the Armada's defeat or is released from The Tower on a queenly whim. Like The Tragedian (with which it is in rep), The Man who was Hamlet rewards intellectual engagement with a time long past, with food for thought about the mores of today.