“All the world’s a game. And all the men and women merely players” says a projection of Mario, of Super Mario fame, to the audience. Why is Mario branching out from his usual Kart related antics and quoting Shakespeare, you ask? Obviously because he has been recast in the role he was born to play, the ghost of King Hamlet in Edward/Edalia Day’s Super Hamlet 64.
Suitable for gaming aficionados and total noobs (like myself) Super Hamlet 64 plunges the audience into a 16-bit adventure full of original music, jokes, and nostalgia. Day successfully presents video gaming as the perfect format to explore the plight of Hamlet, as well as his mental health issues that see him trapped inside his own thoughts. In the famous chapel scene where Hamlet tries to decide whether or not to murder his uncle, Hamlet literally replays possible iterations of this scene, which result in him being killed with a flamethrower, sniper gun and sword. In scenes such as this one, Day slyly makes the point that the world of Hamlet – where he is communing with his ghost father – is just as fantastical as many of the video games that he pays homage to.
The genius of this comparison between Hamlet’s predicament and that of a video game player cannot be overstated. Hamlet either has agency, much like a person playing Pokémon who gets to pick which Pokémon they start with (water or nothing). Or, he is a victim of predestination whose choices have been made for him, in the same way that a person playing Pokémon must pick a Pokémon in order to keep playing. Super Hamlet 64 is much shorter than its original source material, though Day manages to work in many of the tragedy’s most famous lines. In a masterstroke, Hamlet, who is portrayed as a lover of hyperbolic speech, is forced to speak in plain English until he has earned enough points to be able to perform his beloved soliloquies, and use the literary techniques we all had fun learning about during our GCSEs.
Day is a tour de force as the lead in this one man show, voicing the characters of Hamlet, Queen Peach, Ophelia, and the evil King Luigi amongst others. This is a performance that requires precision and perfect timing as he converses with other characters via subtitles and must move in time with animated footage. Full of warmth, Day engages with the audience and encourages full participation, while managing to elicit some outstanding dramatics from them. The play’s animation is charming, taking audience members all the way back to their pre-Nintendo 64 days. The sheer number of video games referenced also deserves high commendation.
Super Hamlet 64 somehow manages to bring Hamlet into the modern age using retro material in combination with Early Modern English. A visually stunning and intelligent romp, though it may sound like madness, “there be method in’t”.
Super Hamlet 64 is on tour until 19th October. For more information and tickets see here.
Photo Credit: Edward Day