Tour Theater Review: HAMLET (Shakespeare’s Globe World Tour Production at Chicago Shakespeare)

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by Lawrence Bommer on July 29, 2014

in Theater-Chicago,Tours


“HAMLET” Shakespeare’s Globe World Tour Production.This play really is the thing. Audaciously assuming that all’s well that ends well, the Globe Theatre is celebrating both Shakespeare’s 450th birthday and the 400th anniversary of his death by touring the world for the next two years and playing in every country of the world. Talk about proselytizing for the Bard (as good a cause as any). They return to London to celebrate Shakespeare’s Quadricentennial on April 23, 2016. Globe indeed! Much ado about something! This enterprise makes the World Cup look rather tame.

Now only three months into the “Globe to Globe” troupe’s splendid circumnavigation, they will employ boats, trains, buses, airplanes, and cars to trek to seven continents and cross as many seas. They will perform the Danish tragedy at 26 venues, including such seminal spots as Mexico’s Yucatan Cathedral (built a year before Hamlet was written), the Mayan ruins of Copan in Honduras, and the elegant Teatro Nacional de El Salvador. And that’s just North America where the U.S. is only country 27 out of 205!

“HAMLET” Shakespeare’s Globe World Tour Production.

Now in the states (and playing Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier only through July 30), they’ll soon be seen at the U.N. Headquarters in New York and, appropriately, D.C.’s Folger Shakespeare Library. Then it’s off to Central and South America.

“HAMLET” Shakespeare’s Globe World Tour Production.Exporting a truly universal drama, their missionary zeal is amply rewarded by the production they bring—perhaps to one or two places that still haven’t seen Hamlet. Played on a bare wooden stage with old-fashioned luggage crates both containing props and creating them, this 160-minute offering moves like the wind, fully capturing the inevitability of the indecisive Prince Hamlet’s dreadfully delayed revenge. Performing in rotation, twelve actors double up delightfully as they play instruments, erupt in folk songs and dances (created by composers Laura Forrest-Hay and Bill Barclay), and instantly sink into parts that never feel like they’re verging on half a millennium.

“HAMLET” Shakespeare’s Globe World Tour Production.

The daunting title role—an actor’s greatest gift and worst nightmare—is shared by Ladi Emeruwa and Naeem Hayat. Opening night saw Hayat, as wild as wise, detonating as much as exploring the inexhaustible part of a young idealist confronted with evil—his uncle’s murder of his father and marriage to his mother—too close for comfort and too threatening to ignore, especially when dad’s ghost demands a swift and total vengeance.

“HAMLET” Shakespeare’s Globe World Tour Production.

Hayat plays with the part like a cat with its prey. Supple to graceful, sometimes clownishly contorted with caustic sarcasm, this mercurial-to-manic young actor can emote on a dime, pounding his head with frustration at the imminence and transparency of the wickedness that infests Elsinore Castle. High-pitched in voice and lithe in neurasthenic agitation, his feigned lunacy perilously verges on real insanity, never missing a punch line, zinger, or two-liner in this gallows-humor role.

“HAMLET” Shakespeare’s Globe World Tour Production.

The rest is not silence. In this superb staging by Bill Buckhurst and Dominic Dromgoole, Hayat is surrounded by sterling support: John Dougall’s full-throated, deadpan-deadly, icy-tongued Claudius, as ripe an example of technique over sincerity as the role requires; Matthew Romain’s stalwart pal Horatio; Tom Lawrence as fulsomely fiery Laertes; Miranda Foster’s intricately anguished Gertrude; Keith Bartlett’s achingly ineffectual Polonius; and Phoebe Fildes as plaintive, clueless Ophelia.


It’s thrilling stuff, as it no doubt was in the first Globe Theatre. (To suggest the original playhouse’s groundling-player intimacy, the theater’s house lights are at half-illumination throughout.) Never has an opening night standing ovation seemed absolutely irresistible—and not just a premature scramble for coats and cabs.

“All the world’s a stage.” Shakespeare never knew how literally that line would be taken. And should!

“HAMLET” Shakespeare’s Globe World Tour Production.

photos courtesy of Shakespeare’s Globe

Shakespeare’s Globe World Tour Production
Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s Courtyard Theater
scheduled to end on July 30, 2014
for tickets, visit
for tour info, visit Shakespeare’s Globe


Ann Raven July 31, 2014 at 8:16 am

To Shakespeare’s Globe: I saw your “Hamlet” in Chicago last night. What fun! Love everything about it. It is funnier than any other “Hamlet” that I have seen and unique for the music you inserted (which I loved). The actors are fresh and brilliant and what stamina they must have! I cried at the end, as always. Thank you for choosing Chicago to be on your tour. (Sorry about all of the coughing; We are infamous for it; I HATE it.) Hope the Globe will return to our theatre with another production.

Jonathan Shailor August 13, 2014 at 7:34 pm

To Shakespeare’s Globe: I attended the July 29 performance – and loved it! The performances were electric. Like Ann Raven, I cried at the end. The joyous, rousing music at the end gave me permission to release all the emotion that had been building in me up to that point. Your wonderful energy and creativity will continue to inspire me as I begin work next month on a one-year HAMLET project with prisoners at Racine Correctional Institution in Sturtevant, Wisconsin. Thank you for sharing your gifts – and best of luck to you on the remainder of your amazing journey!

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