Metro Weekly

Hamlet: Eddie Izzard’s Great Dane (Review)

Eddie Izzard portrays an astounding 23 characters in a mightily impressive, one-person "Hamlet."

Eddie Izzard's Hamlet -- Photo: Amanda Searle
Eddie Izzard in Hamlet — Photo: Amanda Searle

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy,” Hamlet tells his friend after seeing the ghost of his recently deceased father. Fortunately, Eddie Izzard must have had a celestial dream to fully realize a one-person retelling of Shakespeare’s best-known tragedy, Hamlet.

She pulls it off with great intelligence and careful precision in a two-and-a-half-hour production that whizzes by faster than a perceived phantom. From the troubled Danish prince to the forlorn Ophelia and even a cockney gravedigger, Izzard tackles 23 characters with sophisticated panache and effortless flair.

Izzard, who has had an impressive career in London and New York, both onstage and in film, and as an actor and stand-up comedian, admitted to ABC News that she is not the most likely person for a solo Hamlet, but has decided to return to her first love, drama.

In the same interview, it was revealed that Izzard ran 32 marathons in 31 days on a treadmill during lockdown. No doubt that this was excellent training for her dalliance with the Bard. In the intimate Greenwich House Theater, Izzard uses the entire stage and, sometimes, passes through the aisles to become an audience member.

This is a particularly effective moment as Hamlet watches his Uncle Claudius squirm. A group of players has arrived at the castle to perform a play that depicts the murder of Hamlet’s father, committed at the hands of his power-thirsty Uncle.

Later, Izzard, as both Hamlet and Laertes, engages in a smartly crafted sword fight orchestrated by fight director J. Allen Suddeth. The scene alone is awards-worthy. Meanwhile, Izzard and director Selina Cadell rely heavily on the imagination and intelligence of the audience to draw distinctions between characters. Only slight movements and vocal intonations change, which grounds the story in realism.

Eddie Izzard's Hamlet -- Photo: Amanda Searle
Eddie Izzard in Hamlet — Photo: Amanda Searle

In amateur hands, productions of Shakespeare can be histrionic, with actors shouting their lines and flailing across the stage like an air dancer perched atop a car dealership. Izzard is contained, forcing audiences to lean in and really listen to the text. A particularly humorous device can be found as Izzard uses only her left hand and right hand as puppets for Hamlet’s university friends, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

Adapted by Mark Izzard (Eddie’s brother), this Hamlet is streamlined but doesn’t strip away the poetry and eloquent language for which the Bard is known.

Though a one-person show, it is really the technical crew that fully enhances the experience. Tyler Elich’s lighting casts literal shadows of doubt and illuminates the characters’ bursts of clarity.

Eliza Thompson’s music conjures mystery and royalty in the Danish castle of Elsinore; well-timed sound effects give the piece extra dramatic flair. Izzard’s costume, styled by Tom Piper and Libby da Costa, defies gender labels. Adorned in a blue-gray suit coat, leather pants, and leather pants, Izzard is able to convincingly traverse both male and female genders.

Izzard has easily turned what could otherwise feel like a mandatory school assignment into what should be a not-to-be-missed event of the downtown New York theater scene.

Hamlet (★★★★☆) is playing through April 14 at the Orpheum Theatre, 126 Second Ave. in New York City. Tickets are $83 to $135. Visit

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