By The Listies
To see or not to see…? It’s not even a question.
From the moment my kids and I entered the Everest Theatre at Sydney’s Seymour Centre this afternoon, the laughs could not be contained. The Tragedy of Hamlet: Prince of Skidmark is the hilarious brainchild of The Listies, otherwise known as comic performance duo and undeniable maestros of children’s entertainment, Matt Kelly and Richard Higgins. They have taken the iconic (typically four hour ordeal) ahem, tale of Hamlet, pulled it apart and spun the Shakespeare original into their own hysterical 60 minute production.
I had briefly explained to my 6 and 3 year olds, ahead of today’s performance, that William Shakespeare was a playwright and Hamlet one of his most famous plays. But my amateur efforts of explanation were put to shame by the genius of Kelly and Higgins who not only made Hamlet accessible to kids but in making them laugh out loud, gave them a wholly memorable Shakespearean experience.
All the ingredients we know that kids love about literature: ghosts, castles, sword fights, bodily fluids and spooky stuff come together in this theatrical riff on Hamlet, designed for the sensibilities of those aged five and over.
A haphazard trio, comprised of Kelly, Higgins and their “stage manager” Courtney (Stewart), cast themselves in a production of Hamlet due to the actual actors calling in sick on account of a mysterious ‘brown plague’. The stage is set, the costumes are in abundant supply and the famous lines, characters and scenes of Shakespeare’s story of a Danish Prince are wittily brought to life. The wonderful rapport between the performers serves as a brilliant segue into deeper Shakespearean explanation; disguising educational titbits as opportunities for silliness and humour.
Audience participation was expected from the very start as the pair, dressed in usher uniforms, were ready with a high five for my son as we made our way into our seats. I thought it was fabulous how involved the audience were, even presenting the chance for two young aspiring thespians to cameo in the play within a play that is Hamlet’s strategy for extracting a guilty confession from his uncle Claudius for the murder of his father the King. Never has the line “all the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players” been so true, as the entire theatre served as a platform for this Badaptation of the Bard.
Improvisation, hilarious pop culture references from Aldi to Donald Trump and Justin Bieber, dance routines, and yes, even zombies and an interesting astronomical tangent abound. Its sense of spontaneity and ability to poke fun at a subject matter typically reserved for serious academia removes any pressure kids may feel when contemplating learning about the works of Shakespeare. But learn they do as Kelly and Higgins condense the highlights of Hamlet into a spectacle that is undeniably funny (seriously I’ve not laughed that hard in ages and come to think of it neither have my kids), engaging, cheeky and entirely relatable for modern day consumption.
Book your tickets now to get your dose of laughter this school holiday period. The Tragedy of Hamlet: Prince of Skidmark is on at the Seymour Centre Sydney until 22 July. Call the box office 02 9351 7940 or book online.
What you need to know:
Target Audience: Suitable for ages 5+
Duration: 1 hour (no interval)
Dates: 4-22 July 2018
Performance Times: 10.30 am daily with additional performances at 2.30 pm on Fridays and Saturdays
Ticket Prices: $35 per person
Parking: is available on-campus at the University of Sydney ($24 flat rate weekdays and $6 weekends) or in the Shepherd Street car park located on the corner of Cleveland and Shepherd Street. Access to the Seymour Centre is through level 3 of the car park. Make sure you have gold coins with you and note the machines do not give change Mon-Fri (6am-3pm) $4/hour (max $24), Mon-Fri (3pm-6am & weekends) $2/hour ($6 max).
*Theatre patrons can purchase an $8 all-day parking voucher for the Shepherd Street carpark when booking on the phone, in person or online with your ticket purchase.
Public transport: Plenty of bus routes run directly past the Seymour Centre, visit www.sydneybuses.info/ for more info. The closest train station is Redfern and Central Station is a 5 minute bus ride away. Visit www.cityrail.info.