Wharf 1, June 19
Anyone familiar with children’s comedy duo The Listies will know that fart, poo and vomit jokes feature large – and a Listies production of Shakespeare is no different.
The Listies are a classic odd couple with Richard Higgins as the sensible straight man and Matt Kelly as the goofy mischief-maker. Their latest show Hamlet: Prince of Skidmark, was created in cahoots with Declan Greene (of renowned queer Melbourne theatre group Sisters Grimm).
It’s a terrific match. Greene, who also directs, has helped them streamline their shtick into a more tightly structured show without losing any of the ridiculous fun that they are known for.
Presented by Sydney Theatre Company, Hamlet: Prince of Skidmark begins with Higgins and Kelly in usher’s outfits doing a lackadaisical job of guiding people to their seats. But when the lights go up on stage, there’s not an actor in sight. It turns out they are all suffering from “the brown plague” having eaten blue cheese that was 400-years past its use-by date, which Matt gave them in an opening night gift basket.
Rather than disappointing the audience, the duo decide to perform the play themselves with Rich in doublet and hose as Hamlet and Matt as everyone else except Ophelia, who they talk the stage manager Olga (Olga Miller) into playing.
However, they only have 60 minutes because that’s how long it takes for the brown plague to turn your innards to liquid, and Matt has made Rich taste the poisonous cheese too.
Aiming for a “confrontingly traditional” production, Rich does his best to stick to the plot, explaining it in simple terms for children and jumping from one big moment to the next. But before too long things start spinning out of control. Matt can’t help playing up and Olga’s feisty Ophelia isn’t going quietly to a nunnery and instead heads to Planet Nunnery with Claudius, returning as a zombie.
Throw in a dancing dinosaur, tea towel aliens, a giant ear, silly string, a communal version of “To be, or not to be” and a trademark list and you have one of the funniest introductions to Shakespeare imaginable.
Renee Mulder’s set (a painted castle which looks like a storybook pop-up) and wonderfully silly costumes complement the shenanigans perfectly.
Hamlet: Prince of Skidmark is recommended for ages 5+ but there is plenty of smart humour for the adults too, with young and old all laughing along together at the riotously funny Bard-arse show.
Hamlet: Prince of Skidmark plays at Wharf 1 until July 17. Bookings: www.sydneytheatre.com.au or 02 9250 1777
A version of this review appeared in the Sunday Telegraph on June 26