A Shakespeare Story: Hamlet

A Shakespeare Story: Hamlet

Please note that this is a review of the re-telling of Hamlet, not the original by William Shakespeare, but the one retold by Andrew Matthews and illustrated by Tony Ross.

While I had one dream come true by being able to finally see a performance at the Globe theater in London, I have to admit that the situation wasn't ideal.  I was still jetlagged, it was crazy humid, and Little Lion was fidgety.  On the other hand, the actors/players were marvelous and I hadn't thought before about that fact that there would be NO scenery at all.  So the fact that the actors were amazing and still kept us in the scenes is a true testament to their abilities, and exactly as it would have been in Shakespeare's time.

While at the Globe bookshop, Little Lion and I came across the various Shakespeare re-tellings put out by Orchard Press. I wish these were available at the beginning of the play!  Little Lion had been confused with some of the scenes and I tried to quietly explain what was going on without disturbing our neighbors. She read the Andrew Matthews re-telling the next day and loved it.

I love it too.

Andrew Matthews breaks down Hamlet in an easy to understand manner, without taking away from the plot.  He adds all the little nuances to the play as well, adding humor, conflict, and drama in all the right places without dumbing down the original story.

And Tony Ross' illustrations are full of animated expression. A solid introduction to Shakespeare for little ones.  I definitely will be buying more in the series, especially prior to our next Shakespeare performance.

Hamlet, the play

I had too many favorite parts of this version of Hamlet, not the least of which was the fact that Hamlet was played by a female actor, as well as Laertes and Guildenstern, who also was deaf/mute. And Ophelia was played by a male. The girls didn't notice until I told them.

Mr. Bookworm's favorite part of the performance was the part I missed.  Hamlet sat down on the front of the stage and held one of the audience member's hands while she performed the play's famous monologue.

Yes, that's right, I was so hot that I stepped out for a moment and completely missed the "To be or not to be" portion of the play!  Sigh.

Good thing I have that part memorized, courtesy of my senior year English teacher, Mrs. Thomas.  She had us memorize various monolques and recite them to the class.  And learning about her index cards was a rite of passage: I remember hearing about them when I was just a sophomore.  She had all of our names written down on index cards and she would call you to answer her questions depending on the order of the cards.  And then she'd mark something down on the cards afterward.  It was intimidating, even in a subject I loved so much. Mrs. Thomas had a legacy of being intimidating, but also the best role model a girl could have at an all-girl school as she was independent, intelligent, fierce, and stylish, and all her own person.  And she drove a pale yellow convertible Mercedes that she paid for herself.

And she would probably WHOLEHEARTEDLY approve of the gender-bending that occurred in this production of Hamlet.  After all, why shouldn't Hamlet be played by the best actor for the role?

Tell Dr. Bookworm!

Have you been able to cross something off your bucket list? Was it everything you imagined?

Do you have a favorite Shakespeare play?  Mine is still Twelfth Night after I fell in love with the Royal Shakespeare Company's production the summer I spent studying Shakespeare at Stratford-on-Avon with UCLA. In fact, I discovered that the Globe Theater has a production of Twelfth Night available for streaming at their site!  I'm going to have the girls read the Orchard Press version (and I guess Mini Me can read the original) and maybe we'll watch it for family movie night one Friday.  Stay tuned....

PS Did I mention that there were two blokes sitting near the Globe theater in front of old-fashioned typewriters offering their services as poets?  I was too respectful to take their picture. But, man, did I want to. I wonder if they had any takers? I also wonder if they were any good.

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