THE Lowry is playing host to a contemporary version of Hamlet featuring rising star Paapa Essiedu in the lead role.

Presented by the Royal Shakespeare Company and directed by Simon Godwin, the bard’s script is slightly changed. In this version Hamlet is a university student called home when his father is brutally killed.

The ghost of his father, wonderfully performed by Ewart James Walters - asks him to avenge his murder and Hamlet plans to expose the truth.

In this version, Denmark is a modern state influenced by the ritual, traditions and beauty of West Africa and reflecting Essiedu’s Ghanaian heritage.

Sola Akingbola and Sidiki Dembele create an eeriness from the usually happy Caribbean percussion and, after performing a repeat, they follow Paapa Essiedu with a standing ovation.

Essiedu’s Hamlet is full of hate for the perpetrator of his father’s death and cannot forgive his mother, Gertrude, for marrying his uncle, Claudius, (Clarence Smith) so soon after the shocking event, and sprays graffiti over their picture.

He portrays his feelings in a remarkable way. Occasionally, light-hearted and flirtatious, he is also sarcastic and remorseful. His feelings often show in his eyes.

He delivers the famous soliloquy ‘To be or not to be’ with admirable expression and timing.

His frustration shows when he starts to make love to Ophelia before violently rejecting her, telling her to enter a nunnery.

Lorna Brown’s Gertrude seems hard and unfeeling. Yet there is a chink in her armour that reveals love for her son.

Polonius, the King’s Chief Counsellor is played with pomposity by Joseph Mydell. He is accidentally shot dead by Hamlet who, in a well illustrated twosome, is expressing disdain for his mother.

Polonius’s children, Laertes (Buom Tihngang) and Ophelia,(Mimi Ndiweni) also play significant parts in the play. Hamlet displays frustration by starting to make love to Ophelia before violently rejecting her, telling her to enter a nunnery.

The ending, too, is unforgettable, and disturbingly sad.

The production breathes fresh life into the 400-year-old play.

* Hamlet is at the Lowry until Saturday, February 3. For tickets, telephone 0845 208 6000 or book online. Star rating:

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