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Hamilton (Lewis) at the King’s Head Theatre | Review

Hamilton (Lewis)It’s fascinating how a production changes when it goes into a different venue, as anyone who has seen a touring production in more than one place may have found. Same show, same performers – but a different vibe in a different city, that stretches beyond the usual ‘it’s different every night’ merely because there’s a different audience sat down to watch proceedings. Hamilton (Lewis) went down a storm when I caught it at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, where the audience was very responsive.

In London, at the more intimate King’s Head Theatre, the performance space is considerably smaller for one thing – at Assembly George Square, the stage seemed big enough to hypothetically have accommodated a replica Formula One racing car. The show’s title is pretty much what it says on the tin, borrowing heavily from musical theatre, and one musical in particular, to tell the tale of Lewis Hamilton, which some people apparently thought the Broadway and West End blockbuster Hamilton is about.

Even the actors are still getting used to the smaller stage, inadvertently bumping into one another – without causing injury. Perhaps inevitably, not everything has transferred that well. A line about retaining ticket stubs caused momentary confusion, mostly because this particular venue has stubless tickets. Fernando Alonso (Louis Mackrodt) seeks to portray being a Formula One champion as living in a certain way as well as driving faster than the rest.

It’s the sort of psychology I came across when doing some background reading before attending a performance of The Damned United, an adaptation of a novel about Brian Clough’s brief and troublesome time at Leeds United Football Club. Clough’s predecessor, Don Revie, allegedly encouraged his top-flight Elland Road players to eat in decent restaurants and drive nice cars – in short, to be champions in every way. A couple of players had a stern talking to after it was found out they flew economy somewhere.

The stylish and glamorous Nicole Scherzinger (Liberty Buckland) and her approach to life adds more pressure on Hamilton to embrace the high life. In some ways, it’s broadly relatable to anyone who’s had ambition, even if it’s as simple as being able to have enough money to not have to adhere to a strict budget. Enough about me, though: in the title role, Letitia Hector captures the frustration and drive (sorry) of the still young Hamilton. Big Ron (Jamie Barwood) gets a solo, and dressed in the appropriate headgear (no, not a racing driver’s helmet), it isn’t long before yet more nods to Hamilton can be heard as well as seen.

It’s mostly very silly, and it knows it, and one is never quite sure what to take at face value, if anything at all, with all the disclaimers and clarifications. The performances, granted, are a little hammy, but there are some serious points to reflect on, such as the implications of success and how it can potentially change people, and not always for the better.

The choreography is vibrant and the cast shine with excellent stage presence. I said it in Edinburgh, and I shall say it again: this is a hearty and humorous production.

4 stars

Review by Chris Comaweng

Hamilton (Lewis) is the epic story of a self-starter, who worked a lot harder, by being a lot faster. Born and raised in Stevenage, this is the musical story of the most successful British F1 driver in the history of the sport. Blending hip-hop, jazz, blues, rap, R&B and Broadway, discover the petrol-fuelled thrills and spills of the life of Hamilton (Lewis) then, as told by Hamilton (Lewis) now. A brand new musical parody guaranteed to have you in hysterics all the way to the finish line. Not in any way endorsed by Lin-Manuel Miranda… or Hamilton… (Lewis)… or the Pussycat Dolls.

HAMILTON (LEWIS)
September 5th – 22nd, King’s Head Theatre

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