How many times have you watched a play and, as the curtain came down, thought to yourself “what happens next?” I think this is especially true of the works of Shakespeare – in fact, there was even a Dr Who episode that revolved around a follow-up to ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost’ – where the story in which the audience has spent the last three hours is so engrossing that it is natural to ask what follows. Luckily, in the case of one of his most famous tragedies, the audience no longer has to wonder about the future as Theatre Heaven and Hell return to the Hen and Chickens Theatre with Perry Pontac’s Hamlet Part II.
The play opens with the return of Seltazar (Darren Ruston) a member of the Court of Denmark who has been away acting as the King’s ambassador to somewhere hot and exotic. A place where, as it turns out, there was a distinct lack of news coming through about the going’s on at Elsinore. Seltazar is looking forward to returning to court and re-acquainting himself with the royal family. However, Head Librarian Fornia (Elena Clements) has some shocking news for him and, as she goes through the list of corpses Seltazar, has one question, who is currently ruling Denmark? Before receiving their answer, Seltazar and Fornia are visited by A Fool (Nicholas Bright) who while he fails to entertain them, inadvertently provides a potential solution before it transpires that, much to everyone’s surprise, there is a king (Brian Eastty) and and more unexpected holder of the throne could not have been found.
Hamlet Part II is the first of Perry Pontac’s ‘Codpiece Trilogies’ and really works both as a stand-alone piece and as a follow up from the original Shakespeare play. Written in blank verse, the play itself runs nicely along with the two lead characters both supporting and opposing each other as the wonderful Shakespearean dialogue flies between the two of them. There were some really nice touches in the story, including a surprise twist and some very nice linkage with other Shakespeare works. Personally, I think the story could have been expanded slightly to make the show a little longer but at just under an hour, there is enough time for a cohesive and highly amusing tale to be told.
The four actors are extremely good in their respective roles and the relationship between Elena’s Fornia and Darren’s Seltazar is an extremely good one and the two actors work exceptionally well together. Added to these we have Nicholas’ Fool – an apt description of the world’s worst entertainer – and Brian’s almost scene-stealing king and you have a really enjoyable and well-presented show.
Director Michael Ward keeps the action moving at a nice pace and the minimal – well let’s be honest, pretty much non-existent set – actually works really well as do the costumes. Full marks for getting such an amazing Fool’s costume for Nicholas to wear. My one, really minor criticism is that Selthazar, as a professional diplomat, would have had the top button of his shirt done up but maybe he was just relaxing after his long journey home.
Overall though, Hamlet Part II is a perfect answer to anyone who, after seeing the body count from the original Hamlet, was left wondering how the State of Denmark would survive when all its Royal Family were occupied in pushing up the proverbial daisies. It was great fun, highly enjoyable and at times downright hilarious and kept me entertained with a warm smile on my face right from the start. The production was well put together and the writing both excellent and highly appropriate. I’ve never believed in reincarnation but maybe it’s time someone did a ‘who do you think you are’ programme on Perry Pontac to see if, in the far distant past, there isn’t some connection between him and the Bard.
Review by Terry Eastham
Theatre of Heaven and Hell are back from the Camden Fringe with a special return of their hit show Hamlet, Part II. Part of Perry Pontac’s trilogy of Shakespearean parodies ‘Codpieces’, Hamlet, Part II answers a question about Hamlet that has plagued scholars, readers and playgoers for over four hundred years: “What the hell happened next?”. In the Bard’s anniversary year, Theatre of Heaven & Hell will be solving the mystery in the form of this brilliant sequel.
Three nights only so don’t miss out!
8th – 10th Dec 7.30pm £8.00