JOYCE MCMILLAN on TRAGIC (WHEN MY MOTHER MARRIED MY UNCLE) at Cumbernauld Theatre, for The Scotsman 29.9.14.
4 stars ****
WITH A fascinating full-scale version of Hamlet currently on stage at the Citizens’, this is an ideal moment for playwright Iain Heggie to unleash his small-scale alternative take on Shakespeare’s best-known tragedy, now on an 11-date Scottish tour that will take it to Kirkcaldy this Wednesday, Aberdeen on Friday, and Edinburgh’s Summerhall next week.
In Tragic (When My Mother Married My Uncle), Hamlet is a 21st century student, alone on stage with his platform bed, desk-area and screen, who uses his i-pad to introduce us to the various characters in the sad story of his father’s death, his mother’s sudden remarriage to his dodgy uncle, and the political and personal mayhem which follows. Even more interestingly, he retells this famliar story, over 75 minutes, in a straightforward and sometimes flat-footed modern Scottish demotic – “She’s like, what’re you doing here in my room, Hamlet?” – that walks a tight-rope between a sharp and brilliantly accessible rewrite of an essential story, and the kind of sudden comic bathos that results when audiences recognise a familiar Shakespearean scene recast in deliberately down-to-earth language
If Heggie’s new version of Hamlet takes some high-octane risks, though – and sometimes falls off its high wire into easy laughter – it also often achieves a memorable poignancy and intensity; thanks to a fine, controlled performance from Sean Purden Brown as a demotic Prince whose pain and incredulity often forbids facile responses, and a production, by Heggie himself, that paces the darkening story to perfection, against a driving backbeat of Scottish electronic rock.