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Hamlet review at Park Theatre, London – ‘peculiar and pointless’

Gyles Brandredth, Benet Brandredth and Kosha Engler at Park Theatre, London. Photo: Francis Loney Gyles Brandredth, Benet Brandredth and Kosha Engler at Park Theatre, London. Photo: Francis Loney
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There’s vanity, and then there’s the Brandreth family Hamlet. Mercifully condensed to 90 minutes and incomprehensibly to three performers, the production takes place around a kitchen table, with Gyles, his son Benet and Benet’s wife Kosha Engler delivering a greatest hits version of the play.

Brandreth Jr plays Hamlet, while Brandreth Sr and Engler play all the other parts. This is confusing. Papa Brandreth is dead one second and then just wakes up and plays someone else a second later, while Laertes and Gertrude have morphed into one gender-confused person. Possibly.

While Engler and Brandreth the Greater come on as different characters every few seconds, Brandreth the Lesser struggles to give depth to just one. He manages two modes of delivery: loud bluster and quiet bluster.

The mixed roles also add some peculiar Oedipal and Electric layers, not least when Brandreth Beta’s real-life wife Engler plays his mum who’s in love with his real-life dad playing his uncle.

Simon Evans and David Aula both direct, and the actors are mostly where they need to be. Sometimes, however, they’re in places they absolutely don’t need to be, like dancing on the kitchen worktop. And Brandreth Major does often look like he’s ended up here accidentally – as if, by slowly walking across stage, he hopes he can style it out without anyone noticing.

These are talented people, no denying. Brandreth B is a barrister and novelist by day, Engler is the voice of cosmetics company Maybelline, and as for Brandreth G, well the list never ends: former Conservative MP, Countdown regular, European Monopoly champion. He even signed a cheque for £96 billion once.

But none of that helps here. Polly Sullivan’s set – a pretty country kitchen – provides a few distractions for anyone who, heaven forbid, has zoned out of the action. In the end, the production offers very little point, and even less pleasure.

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Gyles Brandreth and family star in a decidedly peculiar vanity Hamlet