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Re-Member Me by Dickie Beau at Hampstead Theatre

Anyone can play Hamlet,” or so says one of the many voices in this one-man show. That is, of course, a rather different statement than saying ‘anyone can play Hamlet well’. In any case, Re-Member Me seems to refute the notion, suggesting there are quite a few actors out there who would love to play the title role in Hamlet but for whatever reason won’t get the opportunity to do so. Both the play’s title and its narrative put forward the idea that what has given Shakespeare’s Hamlet such high regard over the centuries is a human desire to be remembered – and to do the Ghost’s bidding in Hamlet, by remembering others.

Dickie Beau in Re-Member Me. Credit Tristram Kenton.
Dickie Beau in Re-Member Me. Credit Tristram Kenton.

This is, of course, a generalisation – of course, there are some people who have their reasons for preferring to be forgotten. But that is another play for another time, and this play does, to be fair, remember others, most notably Ian Charleson (1949-1990), most famous, as the play reminds the audience, for playing Olympic athlete and Christian missionary Eric Liddell in the motion picture Chariots of Fire. Charleson was seriously ill with AIDS when he took to the National Theatre stage in 1989 – this show goes as far as quoting, at length, John Peter’s review in The Sunday Times, in which he wrote, “…the voice of drama speaks to us through actors”.

Others who have taken on Hamlet are also referenced – Sir John Gielgud, Sir Ian McKellen, Sir Kenneth Branagh, Richard Burton CBE, and so on. The play makes good use of various audio-visual techniques: the video technology is extensive, almost to the point where one wonders how much of this performance is ‘theatre’ and how much of it is ‘film’. Dickie Beau does, to his credit, make regular interjections to the recorded dialogue, all exquisitely timed, which if anything serve as reminders that this is, in the end, very much a live experience.

It’s all more than a bit quirky, but that is also part of the show’s charm. With some of the voices deliberately distorted, there’s no escaping this is essentially drama about drama. But when a disco tune suddenly appears, what is the audience meant to make of that? Even the unassuming crowd at Hampstead Theatre wasn’t going to get up and dance. I did like the inclusion of ‘Papa, Can You Hear Me?’, a song made famous by Barbra Streisand, very apt for a series of reflections on the character of Hamlet and the actors who have played him.

It might be of benefit to have seen Hamlet before seeing Re-Member Me, but it is far from essential, which is why it works so well. Beau’s choice of costume, in which he looks like he is about to go for a run, suggests playing Hamlet is a marathon of sorts, not only just because it’s one of Shakespeare’s longest plays, but because of the legacy both an actor who bags the lead role leaves behind, as well as the invariable correlations made between their performance and that of others. The irony shouldn’t be lost on Beau that this is, in the end, a highly memorable show. A brief but thoughtful production.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

When actor and artist Dickie Beau realised he might never get to play The Dane, he decided instead to build a human Hamlet mix-tape, taking recordings of great Hamlets from the past to channel into an epic one-man lip-sync show

Along the way he found one especially masterful rendition. This ghost from Hamlet’s past left an indelible mark on all who saw it however, this Hamlet can never be “re-membered” because no recording exists.

Join Dickie Beau as he brings this Hamlet back to life, through exclusive recordings of interviews with Ian McKellen, Richard Eyre and more. Re-Member Me is part documentary theatre, part 21st century séance, and a unique theatrical eulogy to the greatest Hamlet almost never seen.

Re-Member Me is directed and co-devised by Jan-willem van den Bosch with lighting design by Marty Langthorne.

Re-Member Me is at Hampstead Theatre from 25 May to 17 June 2023

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