The court jester has returned to reinvent Hamlet

Yorick is back! He’s alive and well in the form of Martyn Jacques of the Tiger Lillies, the court jester who has come back from the dead as a macabre musical muse to guide the audience through Republique theatre’s production of a sinful ‘Hamlet’ that is innovative, imaginative and incredible. Indeed, for a 30-minute period in the second half, it was sustained perfection – and no, I didn’t have a large one during the interval.

It was during this segment – from the staging of a play within a play up until Hamlet’s trip across the sea to England – that the four key components of the British/Danish co-production of ‘The Tiger Lillies perform Hamlet’ came together in perfect symmetry. At the front of the stage, Jacques on his accordion delivered soul-piercing reflections on the play’s many dark themes; behind him the actors gracefully brought to life the invention of artistic director Martin Tulinius; and at the back, simple but yet powerful installations provided an unforgettable backdrop, etching the visual memory of the scene forever on the minds of the audience before them. It was as if it had all been framed by Akira Kurosawa. Stunning!

But while the focus in the second half was crystal clear, the first half was slightly blurry. In hindsight, I wonder why there weren’t more installations. While the set changes were inexorably incorporated into the action, surreally and even joyously so, other elements of the staging, including perhaps one too many wire suspension moments, felt clunky.

But seriously, how to do you squeeze a five-hour play into a two-hour narrative that includes 19 mainly thematic songs. This is not a political thriller. Go and watch ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’ if that’s your bag.

No, instead world theatre has a new ‘British’ musical to cherish (Martin Stout’s musical saw, which charted Ophelia’s decline, was a highlight, as was her eventual demise in the haunting ‘Drowning’, which is surely destined to be a classic), which in this production has been more than matched by ‘Danish’ artistic endeavour (human puppets, ventriloquists, suspended heads, the swordplay, the drowning scene and Hamlet’s piratical swinging at sea – take your pick).

So watch out for the return of ‘The Tiger Lillies perform Hamlet’ in April, when it will be performed entirely in English. It’s an evening that will haunt you for all the right reasons.