“Hamnet” is more than just a typo
Haunting portrait of Shakespeare and his son at Emerson Paramount Center through Oct. 7,
September 30, 2018
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The stage is set with a screen that displays live footage of the audience, almost as though it’s a mirror. As the lights lower, a young boy in a hoodie, jeans, and backpack comes onto the stage, he introduces himself as Hamnet. (Yes, Hamnet, not Hamlet). We soon find out that this young boy is the late 11-year-old son of William Shakespeare, played by Ollie West.
The dialogue consists of the young boy talking to the audience about whatever is on his mind, whether it be a song he learned, or how much he longs for his father to return. Hamnet also talks about how he wants to be a great man, like Hamlet. He looks to the audience to feel a sense of closeness to his father.
Eventually, a man appears on the screen. He is walking down the aisle and onto the stage, however we only see that on the screen, not in real life. This man turns out to be William Shakespeare, who confronts his son, “You need to stop haunting me.”
The dialogue between Shakespeare and Hamnet shows two sides to a story about the separation of father and son. We learn more about how Shakespeare wanted to rid of his own guilt over leaving his son, and how Hamnet wanted to measure up to his father’s famous character, Hamlet.
“Hamnet,” on stage at the Emerson Paramount Center through Oct. 7, is confusing and uncomfortable yet intimate and real. The awkwardness between Hamnet and Shakespeare does a great job at portraying the complexities of a broken family relationship.
Despite Hamnet reading and hearing about his own father countless times, he still becomes struck when he is actually faced with his father. Some of the moments in show may be hard for the audience to watch, considering how unbelievably personal they are, however you won’t want to look away.
You will undoubtedly leave the show contemplating life, death, and relationships. The performance put on by Ollie West is haunting and genuine. However, West is passing his role onto Aran Murphy for the last few performances (Oct. 3-7). In watching “Hamnet,” there will be something new and personal for you to take away from this unconventional take on the classic story of an estranged father.
(“Hamnet” is playing at Emerson Paramount Center through Oct. 7, 2018. For tickets or information, go to https://artsemerson.org.)
–Sept. 30, 2018–
Sarah Vail is a member of the Raider Times staff. Beginning in October 2018, she is serving as Content Coordinator.