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London is probably the best city in the world in terms of activities for families and children including lots of free activities and events. We list here lots of initiatives that we believe London Mums and their children from babies to teenagers would enjoy especially at the most entertaining places such as the Science Museum, The V&A, Kew Gardens, Kensington Palace, Hyde Park, Richmond Park, Greenwich, West End shows, the London Eye, the London Aquarium, Kingston upon Thames, Chelsea, SouthBank and so much more.

Review: Hamlet for young audiences at the Dorfman, National Theatre

Everybody knows who Hamlet is, one way or another. The Dorfman, a small theatre inside the National Theatre, has produced a special Hamlet for young audiences. Jude Christian’s energetic and engaging retelling Hamlet for young audiences (recommended ages 8 – 12 year olds) would delight even Shakespeare himself who would be keen to get his most well-known tragedy to a wide audience. 

Hamlet for young audiences at the Dorfman National Theatre collage of images

Hamlet for young audiences has toured schools across England and its last London performance at the Dorfman Theatre on 28 March 2023. Hurry if you want to see it. It’s not a kiddie play. I have thoroughly enjoyed it and the proof is that I have watched it twice already. Last year Hamlet for young audiences was watched by over 7,300 pupils from 50 schools across England.

To be or not to be…’

Hamlet’s dad is dead. His uncle has taken over the kingdom and married Hamlet’s mum. The whole world feels like it’s turned upside down.

A ghostly encounter reveals a dreadful deed has been done. Should Hamlet take revenge?

That is the question.

This version is adapted for audiences aged 8–12 years old by Jude Christian (Dick Whittington, National Theatre) and originally directed by Tinuke Craig (The Colour Purple, Vassa). The revival is directed by Ellie Hurt (A Christmas Carol, Shakespeare North Playhouse).

Simeon Desvignes performs the role of Hamlet alongside a full company including Curtis Callier, Adam Clifford, Ashley Gerlach, Kathrine Payne, Claire Redcliffe, Annabelle Terry and Monique Walker.

Director Ellie Hurt said, “I’m so excited to bring back Tinuke Craig’s re-imagining of Hamlet for young audiences. To be able to take it from the National Theatre stage and into schools across the country means this show will not only be some of our audience’s first experience of Shakespeare, but also of live theatre. Along with a brilliant cast, creative and production team who have crafted this exciting, engaging and inclusive show, we hope to inspire younger audiences to explore the limitless possibilities in Shakespeare and theatre.”

Speaking about last year’s touring production, a teacher said, “’It’s a brilliant way of introducing Shakespeare to young people; making the plays accessible and enjoyable and boosting the confidence of young people. This project breaths life in Shakespeare’s plays and ignites a new passion for theatres.”

Rufus Norris, Director of the National Theatre said, “Our first experiences of live theatre can open a whole new world of discovery and opportunities, and so we are delighted to bring Jude Christian’s exciting adaptation of Hamlet for young audiences back to the National Theatre and on tour to schools across the country. By transforming school halls with this production, we hope to introduce new young audiences to Shakespeare and theatre, and support teachers to ensure drama and creativity continues to be a key part of learning in primary schools”.

As a mum (Italian speaking mother, to be precise), I truly enjoyed this play as well, because it is a simpler and shorter version (it is only 65-minute long) enriched with contemporary music and with the use of colours in clothing to differentiate the characters. 
 
The use of veils to represent the ghosts of the murdered characters is a gentle technique to make the tragedy less bloody and bearable to children. I particularly found the appearance of the king’s ghost to Hamlet interesting: that required four performers holding a moving veil. 

The actors interact with the young audience from time to time and that helps kids to feel drawn right inside the story. 

And it’s not that Shakespeare’s tragedy is tampered down. Quite the opposite: killings happen on stage but the use of props makes it less shocking. 

I highly recommend taking children to see this Hamlet as it is the best introduction to Shakespeare they will ever have. It is definitely worth a trip.

Tickets for public booking are now available at www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/shows/hamlet

 

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