We take a look at what is being said about Lolita Chakrabarti’s staging of Maggie O’Farrell’s novel.

Photograph: Tristram Kenton/The Guardian

The Guardian: *** “We end with Hamlet – Shakespeare’s homage to Hamnet – and it all stays as sweeping and sentimental as a Hollywood film but hooks us in nonetheless, strongly performed across the board, with a simple, beguiling theatricality: Tom Piper’s wooden stage set is airy and beautiful. Oğuz Kaplangı’s compositions and Xana’s sound design combine the fiddle and recorder with the click of wood blocks and the kamale ngoni. It is a rather broad-brush portrait of the Shakespeares’ grief, but knows just how to pull at our heartstrings all the same.”

The FT: **** “Hamnet makes few intellectual demands of its audience, but neither does it patronise them with crass foreshadowing or anachronistic social attitudes. It’s a quiet, thoughtful entertainment — screaming birth-scenes excepted — that builds to a fine intensity. The book still packs the greater emotional punch.”

Birmingham Mail: ***** “An outstanding, utterly beautiful performance.”

WhatsOnStage: *** “Tom Varey carefully marks Shakespeare’s growing confidence, Peter Wight is impressive both as his overbearing father and as the actor Will Kemp, Elizabeth Rider beautifully convincing as his mother who gradually understands Agnes’s worth.”

iNews: *** “Chakrabarti cannot quite make the too-slight scenes of Shakespeare at theatrical work singnor, more troublingly, do she and Whyman convince us of the cathartic transcendence of Hamlet as a response to his family tragedy. A few more minutes of stage time would have aided this scene considerably.”

The Telegraph: *** “The RSC adaptation of Maggie O’Farrell’s novel about Shakespeare’s son is a searing take on grief.”

West End Best Friend: ***** “It’s a beautiful, yet tragic story of a strong woman behind a literary genius. We couldn’t recommend this production more, whether you have read the novel or not, you will not be disappointed.”

West End Theatre.com: **** “Erica Whyman’s production, now playing at the newly – and beautifully – renovated Swan Theatre, never rests on easy tropes, and manages to pull off a simplicity and innocence that defies that cynicism, evoking – and even harnessing – the strong sense of place at the heart of O’Farrell’s novel.”

The Stage: *** “Adaptation of Maggie O’Farrell’s Shakespearean novel has a lush loveliness that will win hearts.”

The Reviews Hub: ***** “It’s a powerful and emotional piece that brings a voice to some of the lesser-known characters in the Shakespeare story. Highly recommended.”

Hamnet continues to play at the Swan Theatre until the 17th June, before transferring to the Garrick Theatre from the 30th September until the 6th January 2024.


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