Shakespeare in the Garden – Cheer Up, Hamlet

Aug 23 2015 | By More

✭✭✭✭✩     Family fun

Young critics scheme review
The Famous Spiegeltent (Venue 87): Sat 8 – Sun 30 Aug 2015

Educational, side-splitting and with just the right amount of ridiculous, Shakespeare in the Garden – Cheer Up, Hamlet is perfect for parents who want their children to be discreetly educated but without their enjoyment being compromised.

Despite being for kids, there is something for everyone in this hilarious production. The humour should appeal to all ages, even if the simplification of the play means the production is best suited for ages four to twelve.

Cheer Up HamletThe production follows the basic story of the play with all the same characters, however certain aspects are exaggerated to fit a more cartoonish style which children can identify with.

The mixture of the original Shakespearean lines combined with present-day language makes the story clear and easy to understand, but the children still learn about the famous lines. The occasional breaking of the fourth wall explaining the importance of the Shakespearean lines adds to the educational value of the show, and is nicely handled by director Sally Lyall. However, there could be more Shakespearean language in some parts, as it risks becoming too dumbed down.

Ali Robertson plays Hamlet with enough exaggeration that he is a comical character, but not so much that it is too in-your-face or patronising.

Hamlet’s evil uncle Claudius is played by Max Reid, who draws attention throughout with a hilarious and absorbing performance. Sylvia Cowie is perfectly cast as his wife, the Queen, portraying the character as bored, rich and insensitive which was very funny, however as the performance is for kids she could be more expressive when saying lines.

sexist undertones confronted

The best singer in the show is undoubtedly Meg Laird-Drummond, who plays Ophelia. Her solo number is astonishing, and there would definitely be a place for her in the West End in future. The song, which is about how Ophelia is not listened to by the men in the play, is extremely clever. Musical director Tommie Travers addresses the fact that Shakespeare does not give the character a voice in his play and this means the sexist undertones of the play are confronted. As a result the children will not receive a bad message from the show.

There are many references to social media throughout, which are unnecessary and can feel too much like they are trying to get down with the kids, straying too far from the historical context.

As a whole the show is very well-directed and lighthearted, and is thoroughly entertaining even if you are over the age of 12. Parents will enjoy the show as much as their children, and teachers could learn a thing or two from Lyall and the actors on how to make learning sly and a great deal of fun.

Running time: 1 hour
The Famous Spiegeltent (Venue 87), St Andrew Square, EH2 1AF
Fri 7 – Mon 31 Aug 2015
Performances: 8, 9, 12, 13, 15, 16, 19, 20, 22, 23, 26, 27, 29, 30 August
The three Shakespeare in the Gardens shows play two a day, daily (not Mons 10, 17 & 24) at 10.30am and 11.45am.
Book tickets on the EdFringe website:
Or the ARfringe website:
Company website:


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