The Man Who Was Hamlet - Review

If you did not get to see this one man show then you missed a theatrical treat.

In telling the story of Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, George Dillon gave a tour de force performance as he brought to life not only the Earl but also the various characters interwoven with his story.

There was no set, just the bare studio walls and floor with a sword and skull on it together with a couple of spotlights that emphasised changing moods. The atmosphere was further enhanced by the use of original music played by Charlotte Glasson, seated to the side of acting area. This music complimented the narrative but on a couple of occasions I felt it intruded – a minor quibble, however.

Dillon's account of De Vere's childhood started with him secretly observing his father's company of players performing before the visiting Queen Elizabeth, recounting the death of his father and the remarriage of his mother one month later. And so the parallels with Hamlet started to appear.

Being made a Court Ward he was sent to live with and under the guidance of Lord Cecil, an old man much given to spouting words of wisdom to the young boy. Whilst at fencing practice in the gardens he heard a noise behind the bushes and thrust his sword into it thereby killing a cook, possibly one of Cecil's many spies.

The narrative went on to depict life at court where his skill at dancing made him a great favourite of the Queen. His stately impersonation of Good Queen Bess was delightful. For convenience he married Cecil's daughter Anne but promptly went off to fight in Europe. A later dalliance with a lady of Court, whom he made pregnant, ended up with the pair of them imprisoned in the Tower of London.

Particularly amusing were the two encounters with a Warwickshire yokel named Shake-speare to whom de Vere helped with a sonnet to send to his wife!

Dillon's performance was astonishing as he displayed exceptional acting skills combined with great dexterity of movement – be it dancing or fencing. As a monologue it was full of drama and spiced with humour. It gripped the audience and held them spell bound until the very end.

Having also written the piece, that undoubtedly had been extensively researched, Dillon wisely handed over the direction to Denise Evans, thereby ensuring a dispassionate view of the piece.

It is understood that this is still a work in progress and I, along with many others I suspect, would welcome a later viewing.

Barrie Jerram