To celebrate a decade of presenting Shakespeare at St Paul’s Church in Covent Garden, Daniel Winder’s Iris Theatre is staging Hamlet. The production is misjudged, more a miss than a palpable hit.
The idyllic church gardens are strewn with fascist banners in a way that brings to mind the bit in The Sound of Music when the Nazis plant their flag on the balcony of the Von Trapp villa. The production is set in a surveillance state that feels both contemporary and harks back to the 1970s (the Ghost resembles an alien from an episode Doctor Who) filled with cameras and propaganda. The women wear hideous Handmaid’s Tale-esque hooded cloaks in drab colours.
The actors do their best playing multiple characters. Jenet Le Lacheur, a non-binary transgender actor, makes a gangly, nervy Hamlet, a son to Gertrude and a man to Ophelia and Polonius, but “my lady” to Harold Addo’s tender Horatio, the only one to show Hamlet any affection.
The lowest points are the players’ hip hop-infused interpretive dance sequence and an incomprehensible video version of The Mousetrap, which would lose anyone not already familiar with the story.
It’s commendable to take risks with outdoor Shakespeare productions, which too often play it safe. The church itself has such a unique atmosphere, and the staging of the graveyard scene in a real graveyard could have proved haunting were it not played so broadly. Though it contains some decent ideas, Winder’s production is a conceptual mishmash, more discombobulating and bizarre than it is inventively eclectic.