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Something Rotten review at Sweet Waterfront, Brighton – ‘smart and funny’

Robert Cohen in Something Rotten at Sweet Waterfront, Brighton.

While there’s nothing particularly original in tackling a Shakespeare play from one of the supporting characters’ viewpoints, Monkeydog’s Something Rotten is an engaging and clever take on Hamlet’s Claudius. Appearing at first as equal parts monarch, politician and middle manager, the new king is all pleasantness as he addresses us, his household staff: very sad about the death of his brother and all that, but we must move on, maintain continuity in the realm, and the sooner that moody teen gets packed off back to university the better.

Robert Cohen – performing his own piece – is superb, both in his portrayal of the assumed persona of this over-amiable king, and the mercurial, secretly vengeful man behind it, who fast unravels as his plans are thwarted, his flaws and secrets exposed one by one.

There are some sharp and some very funny lines, and plenty of sly references to the original text thrown in for the aficionados – though you don’t need to be an expert to enjoy the production.

It’s occasionally a little heavy handed and there are few real surprises – the big reveals are all obviously signposted – but Cohen gives his character real nuance and depth, taking this well beyond what could easily have been a one-joke idea.

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Verdict
A strong solo performance in a smartly-written reimagining of Hamlet from Claudius’ point of view
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