Sunday, 18 September 2016

Preview: Hamlet at Hexham Queens Hall

Black Theatre Live presents
Hexham Queens Hall
Tuesday 4th & Wednesday 5th October 2016

An exploration of the disenfranchisement of young men and the social factors that can turn a good kid bad, in Britain’s first all-black Hamlet.

Adapted with Shakespeare’s text by Mark Norfolk and directed by Jeffery Kissoon

Following the success of their first three productions, Macbeth, She Called Me Mother, and The Diary of a Hounslow Girl, Black Theatre Live, in association with Watford Palace Theatre and Stratford Circus Arts Centre, arrives in the region in October with an all-black cast and creative team.

 Inaugural winner of the Roland Rees Bursary Mark Norfolk’s adaptation casts Hamlet as a studious young black man who’s forced to face the realities of his social identity, and rages against the injustice of his position.

Directed by Jeffery Kissoon, who has most notably worked for the RSC, the National Theatre, Robert Lepage, Peter Hall and Peter Brook, including Peter Brook’s Hamlet, the production is a fast-moving, contemporary version that gets to the heart of a young man’s dilemma.

An intelligent young student returns to discover the world he once knew has crumbled. Faced with the new king’s change in regime and religion, and implored to defend what is left of his father’s decaying legacy, Hamlet now faces the greatest moral challenge – to kill or not to kill.

The cast of nine is led by Raphael Sowole as Hamlet and Abiona Omonua as Ophelia. Raphael’s recent work includes the Almeida’s The Merchant of Venice, and Cheek By Jowl’s Tis A Pity She’s A Whore at the Barbican. Abiona’s credits include the Menier Chocolate Factory’s The Colour Purple, Legally Blonde in the West End, and Parade at the Southwark Playhouse.

Director Jeffery Kissoon said, “In Hamlet we reflect on the Black experience, anxieties, and sensibilities in a modern era. Shakespeare’s wonderfully rich text explores a tormented humanity, asking the searching questions of life and death faced head-on by a young Black Prince. 'Remember me' is the theme of this production: by saying 'Remember me', the ghost of Hamlet's father is urging Hamlet to remember not just him, but his background, heritage and all those that came before him”.

Jeffery Kissoon’s theatre credits include playing Antony opposite Kim Cattrall’s Cleopatra at the Liverpool Playhouse, Julius Caesar in Greg Doran’s production for the Royal Shakespeare Company and many Shakespearean and many classical roles under directors including Robert Lepage, Peter Brook, Peter Hall, Simon McBurney, Calixto Bieto, Nicholas Hytner and Trevor Nunn on productions such as Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth, The Tempest, The Caucasian Chalk Circle, The Mahabharata, Waiting for Godot and The Crucible. His film credits include Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Ham & The Piper, Dirty Pretty Things, Hamlet and on Television, Agatha Christie, Dalziel and Pascoe, Holby City, Casualty, Space 1999 and the recurring roles of Judge Anthony Abego in EastEnders in 2015, and Mr Kennedy in Grange Hill. As a director his work includes Ave Africa, an adaptation of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, The Meeting and Mark Norfolk’s plays Where The Flowers Grow, Naked Soldiers and Knock Down Ginger.

Mark Norfolk writes for film, theatre and radio. His recent films Shadow Gene, Ham and the Piper and Crossing Bridges which he wrote and directed, have won many international awards including a Screen Nation Film Production Award, Best Film and Director at Festfilm Kosovo, Seven Art Best Film, Best Feature Film at the Carmarthen Bay International Film Festival, Best Film at the Black International Cinema Festival and a Silver Chris Award at the Columbus International Film Festival. His theatre work includes Blair’s Children at the Cockpit Theatre, Wrong Place for Soho Theatre, Where The Flowers Grow, Naked Soldiers and Knock Down Ginger for the Warehouse Theatre and in 2015 he became the first recipient of the Alfred Fagon Award’s Roland Rees Bursary.

The three year programme from Black Theatre Live, now in its second year, brings high quality performances from culturally diverse perspectives to venues across the country. The initiative is a partnership of Tara Arts, Derby Theatre, Queen’s Hall Arts (Hexham), the Lighthouse (Poole), Theatre Royal Bury St. Edmunds, Theatre Royal Margate, Stratford Circus Arts Centre (London) & Key Theatre (Peterborough).

Cast and Creatives
Directed by Jeffery Kisson
Adapted with Shakespeare’s text by Mark Norfolk    
Set design by Cleo Harris-Seaton
Lighting design by Devante Benjamin
Sound design by Jerrome Buck-Townsend
Costume design by Natalie Price
Music by Sebastian Russell
Cast:  Mark Ebulué, Joy Elias-Rilwan, Trevor Laird, Patrick Miller, Offue Okegbe, Abiona Omonua, Victor Power, Theo Solomon and Raphael Sowole

Running Time: 120 minutes plus interval| Suitable for ages 12+

Hamlet is at the Queen’s Hall Arts Centre, Hexham on Tuesday 4 October 7.30pm & Wednesday 5 October 1.00pm & 7.30pm. Tickets are £11.00 - £14.50 and are available from the Queen’s Hall Box Office 01434 652477 or online at

Website: Hamlet at QHA

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