Hamlet… A Puppet Epic


zip & shakes

There IS something awesome in the state of Denmark and that is Shakey Shake and Friends’ Hamlet… A Puppet Epic, which plays at the George Ignatieff Theatre through July 8th, 2015 as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival and Fringe Kids. This is Shakey Shake and Friends’ fifth anniversary of presenting hilarious and child-friendly puppet shows based on William Shakespeare’s plays.

We are first introduced to Len, the Sesame Street equivalent of Avenue Q’s Princeton and his girlfriend Lucy, the Sesame Street equivalent to Avenue Q’s Kate, who are supposed to be going to see Hamlet at the Stratford Festival, but Len gets sidetracked by wanting to play Super Mario, so Lucy decides the best way to prove to Len that Hamlet is even more awesome than video games is to give him the chance to play the part. They are joined by a Guy Smiley- type Christopher Marlowe, who plays the evil Claudius, Shakes himself plays Polonius, child-friendly Trekkie Monster types play Rosencrantz and Laertes and we are introduced to the brilliant Guildentrunk, who is a muppet made from a trunk.

Tom McGee’s adaptation remains true to the plot of Hamlet, and uses short snippets of Shakespeare’s most famous, and beloved, lines, but largely the story is told in contemporary language, for the benefit of a young audience’s comprehension. While the children delight in the physical antics of the puppets, a running gag regarding ghost sheets and mermaids and curtains, a pie pun, and silly songs, most of the jokes in McGee’s adaptation are aimed at adults, especially those with a close affiliation with Hamlet. It explores Gertrude’s refusal to confront the truth about her marriage, even when the truth is staring her straight in the face. It highlights the absurdity of Polonius’ need to meddle in his daughter’s love life. It turns Claudius into a Super Villain and pokes fun at Hamlet, who is “sad about stuff” and Ophelia, who is trying to be a feminist about things but still ends up at the bottom of the lake. The play is narrated, largely by a Scooter-type character named Zip, who plays the sweetest Horatio you will ever see, and it is through Zip’s eyes that the children are being taught how to see, understand and think about Shakespeare, while being thoroughly entertained, which is much more than can be said about most other attempts to introduce young people to these plays.

Whether you are five years old or a hundred and five years old, whether you consider yourself a Shakespeare connoisseur, a Muppet connoisseur or a Sesame Street connoisseur, as long as you’re not Sam Eagle, I think you will love this play.

TWISI FRINGE RATING: 5_Star_Rating_System_4_and_a_half_starsHamlet… A Puppet Epic plays at the George Ignatieff Theatre (15 Devonshire Place) at the following times: 

show times
July 05 at 10:00 AM  buy tickets
July 07 at 10:00 AM  buy tickets
July 08 at 03:15 PM  buy tickets
July 09 at 10:00 AM  buy tickets
July 10 at 10:00 AM  buy tickets
July 12 at 11:00 AM  buy tickets