When Shakespeare’s Hamlet visited Kampala

00:44 by Kaggwa Andrew
He smacks his head several times, looking suspicious and reminding those close to him that he is indeed planning his move. Whether they like it or not, he has to make someone pay for his father’s death.
It is not surprising that this sweet young prince of Denmark, Hamlet, ended up organising that disastrous play, The Murder Of Gonzongo for the king to simply judge his guilt by reaction.
Well, if you missed London’s Globe To Globe Theatre Company in Kampala, you have only yourself to blame. The touring group of eight British actors, with each of them somehow connected to the site of the first production of William Shakespeare’s masterpieces, have since April 2014 carried the responsibility of delivering the world’s greatest playwright’s 1600s tragedy, Hamlet, to all the countries in the world.
In the opening phrase of a soliloquy in the Nunnery Scene play, Prince Hamlet creates his own ‘to be or not to be – that is the question’ moment, in a speech, where he seems to be contemplating death and suicide.
It is one of those outstanding Shakespeare quotations we have heard in various remakes of the play. From Kenneth Branagh, David Tennant to Mel Gibson, the soliloquy is such a speech to baffle about. 
Yet, last Wednesday’s performance in the theatre gardens, this spectacle was unveiling before our eyes.
The theatre company is touring with Shakespeare’s most laudable work to mark his 400th death anniversary, which surprisingly fell with his 450th birthday last year.
Since they are a small cast for such a huge project, actors move within different roles.
It is a good thing, especially in times where cost cutting is a common song. However, with too many roles, some actors were more true to particular characters than the others.
The role of Hamlet is played by two alternating characters: Naeem Hayat and Ladi Emeruwa. Since it is one play with a thousand interpretations, Hayat gave us a delicate Hamlet, struggling with inner pains, conflicts and anger. But he wanted to find peace and justice on finding out about his father’s murder. He denounced his love and cause, constantly seeing the late king’s ghost.
Being a minimalistic production, the directors Dominic Dromgoole and Bill Buckhurst aimed at engaging the audience’s imagination when it came to picturing some of the locations and scenes. And yes, it was easier if you had already read the book.
The scene where King Claudius (John Daugall) and Queen Gertrude (Miranda Foster) are literally forced to watch a play of a poisoned Gonzongo, they doubled as actors and the audience at the same time. Though, everything happened so fast that if any Ugandan had paid his ‘cool’ Shs 30,000 for his blonde girlfriend to watch the show, she must have left cursing.
So, how good was this Hamlet from the ones we have watched on DVDs or in theatre by local directors? Exceptional and professional, not to water down that action-packed fluff with Mel Gibson; these energetic young actors did way a lot with so little. They took it a notch higher when it came to parts by Amanda Wilkin as Heratio, Jennifer Loeng as the crazy Ophelia and Miranda’s Gertrude.
Rawiri Paratene was amazing, especially with his versatility. On the tour, he doubled as Polonius and Claudius – as well as one of the grave diggers and the priest at Ophelia’s burial.
The show that started at 7:30pm was a sellout, probably because it was highly publicised on social media, or, the British are good at pushing what culturally-connects to them. The gardens were packed with almost three quarters of the mzungu community in Kampala.
Before proceeding to Uganda, the company had been to USA, Netherlands, German, Finland, Algeria, Sudan, Ethiopia and Kenya, among others.
Uganda was their 74th country, though, the National theatre was their 85th venue, considering that they held more than a show in United Kingdom and USA.
After Uganda, they headed to Rwanda and Tanzania.

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