To pee, or not to pee? Well, that is the question when the head of your dead father pops up in the bowl of the loo you happen to be using in this condensed interpretation of Hamlet.
Beckett would be proud of this inspired parody uploaded today via The Guardian’s feed: Hamlet has been re-envisioned as a modern-day, university leaving, money scrounging teen plagued by visions of his father’s disembodied head appearing in random and frankly uncomfortable places…
At just over four minutes, the humorous take on one of Shakespeare’s greatest Tragedies presents the greater part of the playtext narrative whilst chopping whole swathes of side plots and less-pivotal characters. The adaptation of the text relies on familiar conventions of serialised popular entertainment, consumerism and contemporary concerns of modern familial structures.Turning the psychological tragedy into a gross parody, the video embodies the theatrical grotesque, debasing the romanticism and stoic themes of Shakespeare’s original text with frightening ease. We laugh, but at horrific and vulgar characterizations: if Shakespeare meant to reflect contemporary concerns within his action, then a modern audience must shudder at what they see in this take on the narrative.
Denmark, therefore, becomes a familial pub: The Prince of Denmark seems eerily reminiscent of Albert Square’s Queen Vic, a serial pub with serial issues, and rather fittingly frames the narrative to echo within familiar territory. Hamlet, no longer a noble figure, transforms into a spotty youth who wants to go travelling around the world rather than focus on the task of adult responsibilities, a clever twist on the tragic Dane’s iconic procrastination. Gertrude is a hungry woman, in more than one sense of the word: practically drooling over a proffered gerkin (gerkins and lasagne– pub grub staples to situate the plot), she simpers and placates both son and new hubby in a way that makes Shakespeare’s Gertrude seem shrewd. Claude, a brash Scotsman, exudes Phil Mitchell charisma and leers at his new wife: he bares his teeth in an affectation of a smile, and waves a small wad of £5 notes at his nephew to entice him to leave the pub. Finally, the Ghost of Hamlet Snr: a wide-eyed, bloated, red-faced head that first appears floating in the loo, then bursts through the lasagne as only a Chestburster can to harangue his son for not avenging him sooner. An odd compilation, made all the weirder by a slow-motion food fight as a replacement for the fencing match, before every member of the family dies from the poisoned wine Hamlet’s mother accidentally included in the lasagne sauce.
A clever, bizarre, grotesque parody that at once brings Shakespeare kicking and screaming to the fore, whilst at the same time exaggerating the ludicrous nature of the familial plot if presented as a modernized adaptation of the play: iphones replace letters, pubs replace palaces, and a catastrophic Italian menu replaces a poisoned chalice. If we were to look at this seriously, there is a case for analysing the benefits and flaws in attempting to bring a period narrative to life by setting it in a modern-day locale: the audience is at once delighted to recognise the early modern text, laughing at the ridiculous nature of the adaptation; however, there is also comment on the realistic credibility of such storylines existing outside of theatrical premises.
Does it work or no? It certainly catches the eye, and forces the viewer to question their knowledge and familiarity with both Shakespeare and common thematic entertainment alike… Whatever the case: this is without a doubt a remarkable, grotesque review of what happens when we try to bring Hamlet the Dane into the 21st century.