Hamlet In Africa

Last Thursday, my class and I went to see a production of Hamlet at the Royal Shakespeare Company Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon. It was a very interesting performance and I really enjoyed watching it. The production company decided to interpret the story in a very unique way. Instead of having the play take place in medieval Denmark, it took place during modern times in an African culture. Although different from the standard interpretation of Hamlet, I thought that this decision was a very intriguing one to take, as it allowed the audience to see the characters and society of Hamlet in a brand new light.

However, the play was not without its flaws, and the most striking of those flaws was the RSC’s inability to fully commit to its African vision of the play. The production company was clearly trying have the play take place in an African setting. This was evident because of their casting, music, and set decisions that they made in regards to the play. However, the lines that the actors used still indicated that the story takes place in Europe; Denmark specifically. In order to do justice to the vision that the RSC had created for Hamlet, they should have made the play take place in an African country.

One could argue that it is essential to remain faithful to the text when producing a play, but when the director of Hamlet decided to set the play in what is obviously an African country, the intent of the text was altered anyway. The characters dressed in African clothing, the music used in the play was African, and the design of the set was African. To present this African imagery to the audience and yet insist that the play still takes place in Denmark is asking me to suspend my disbelief too far.

The RSC’s production of Hamlet was fun to watch, but in order to become a stronger performance, the RSC needed to fully commit to their vision of Hamlet in Africa. Such a decision would have strayed from the text, but it would have given the production a stronger continuity and the performance would have been more polished as a whole.