Edward/Edalia Day likes computer games. They really like computer games. Hamlet, I’m not so sure. In this two-act one-player show, Hamlet is shredded, exploded, cut up and chopped down – with a chainsaw. It is set on fire, flame-throwered and invaded by zombies. It is subject to interrogation, irony, deconstruction, and even cold-blooded filking. At times the plot is not so much twisted as has its spine ripped out, while on fire, screaming.
But it’s not all explosions, portal chases, explorations of gender and social identity, false moustaches and belly laughs. Day’s exploration of how gaming and life intersect and cross-comment also brings bright observations, dizzying highs, plummeting lows. From the blunted choice architecture of antique text adventures to ecstatically rendered 3D car-rolls, there is nothing gaming cannot illuminate or illustrate.
The visuals, as you would expect from a 21st Century game based on the greatest play ever written, are spectacular. The music is some kind of 8-bit multi-track mash-up game-theme madness, played largely on what I think was a guitalele. The soliloquies present many problems, both technical and emotional.
The actor is supplemented by a crowd of projected avatars, sprites, ghosts and NPCs, whom Day duets with, fights and chases, contorting through roles with the fluid charm of a full-scale nervous collapse, directing the action with nonchalant waves of a hacked Wii remote. You don’t need to know your Skyrim from your Zelda to get the jokes and you don’t need to know Hamlet inside out to understand the frustration and bitterness of ambition and indecision.
In this world of impossible tasks guarded by giant robot end level bosses, where we are all too often lost for words or left banging our heads against concrete blocks or glass ceilings, this show takes it all the way, from level one – to game over.