Sunday, August 5, 2018


The Tragedy OF Hamlet Prince of Skidmark. The Listies.
Conceived by Richard Higgins, Matt Kelly and DeclanGreene. Directed by Declan Greene. Lighting designer. Verity Hampson. Composer and sound engineer. Jed Palmer. Costume designer. Renee Mulder. Produced by Sydney Theatre Company. The Playhouse. Canberra Theatre Centre. August 3 amd 4 2018.
Reviewed by Peter Wilkins
Matt Kelly and Richard Higgins are The Listies
Hamlet for five year olds? Shakespeare’s  classic tragedy for children? With murder, revenge and dead bodies littered across the stage?  And performed by only three actors, none other than the crazy, zany, madcap Listies with the help of Courtney Stewart as stage manager and the fair Ophelia. This has to be seen to be believed. So, with my seven year old grandson in tow, off I went to see how The Listies could tell the tale of the melancholy Dane to an audience of children, upwards of five years.

Within seconds of finding his seat, my grandson let out peals of laughter as bellboy costumed ushers  clambered from the auditorium onto the stage , only to discover that the company of actors whp were to play the tragedy had all come down with the Brown Plague, a terrible affliction caused by something they ate and rendering them the victims of shakes, sweat explosive farts and ensuing results from behind and out of the mouth. That’s right, it was going to be one of those kind of children’s shows and my grandson joined an audience of giggling, squirming wrigglers with delight.
Richard Higgins as Hamlet, Prince of Skidmark
What followed was The Listies’ irreverent, hilarious badaptation of the Bard. Richard Higgins plays the straight man with lapses into absurdity while Matt Kelly plays his fall guy, the buffoon to Higgins’s character. Think Bud Abbot and Lou Costello, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, Stan laurel and Oliver Hardy, Colin Lane and Frank Woodley. Higgins is the serious clown, carefully controlled until events send him into an uncoiled spin. Kelly is a turbo charged clown, irrepressible, infectiously funny and the perfect foil. Stewart completes the cast, taking on Ophelia and Princess Nun-Ninja.
The action rockets through one turbo charged hour of lighting speed costume changes, snippets of the Hamlet story for the young child with twisted versions of the four hundred year old plot, sword fights, audience interaction and some scene stealing by an adorable five year old , shadow puppetry of pirate ships upon the high seas, Ninjas, ghosts, zombies and dragons. There are even quotes from the play as Hamlet (Higgins) holds aloft Yorrick’s skull or Hamlet despatches Ophelia to a nunnery before he finds he has to make a fast exit to the dunnery, possibly brought on by feeble puns and misspelt lists. It’s all in good fun.

The audience, enchanted, engrossed and rocking with laughter lapped up every moment, giggling at Kelly’s cross-eyed Claudius, doubling up at the sight of the versatile Kelly’s floss and screaming out instructions during the old “Where is he?” panto routine.
For the accompanying adults, it might all be a bit familiar – the knockabout physical comedy, the lavatory humour, the audience participation and the sheer butane energy of performers who have found their niche, discovered their target audience’s funny bone and come up with a clever idea to bastardize the bard, or maybe do him some service by introducing him to a completely new audience. I just hope they won’t all burst into laughter when they see the real thing.
One thing is certain. They will remember the story and the time they saw The Listies and couldn’t stop laughing from start to finish. That’s an unforgettable lesson in how to love their visit to the theatre. There’s nothing tragic about that!