Tag Archives: Prema Mehta

The cast of Hamnet stand on a wooden stage. Behind them, two wooden ladders fashioned into an ‘A’, draped with flowers. Photo by Manuel Harlan © RSC



Garrick Theatre

HAMNET at the Garrick Theatre


The cast of Hamnet stand on a wooden stage. Behind them, two wooden ladders fashioned into an ‘A’, draped with flowers. Photo by Manuel Harlan © RSC

“The story is gripping, and the performances are strong”

It is a hard task to adapt an incredibly popular and deeply literary novel for the stage, especially one which spans decades, cities and narrative voices. This adaptation doesn’t quite carry the romantic and ethereal genius of its source text, but it is brave enough to carve its own path through the story. It rushes along as a love letter to the emotional power of theatre.

Agnes is the peculiar orphaned daughter of a sheep farmer, who falls for the quick tongued Latin tutor, known better as William Shakespeare. The first half follows their romance and their struggles with their respective families, particularly William’s cruel and violent father. The second half jumps a decade, and surrounds the personal heartbreak which inspires, so this play supposes, one of the greatest tragedies ever written.

Lolita Chakrabarti’s adaptation is direct, emotionally honest and blunt. Sometimes this is an asset, allowing the emotional truths to be laid bare, but sometimes it lacks subtlety. The high-octane emotions, especially at the beginning, do feel a bit distancing at times, and it would have been interesting to explore a more layered complexity, especially in the couple’s relationships with their parental figures. The time jump in the middle, which brings the twins to the forefront and allows the piece a greater emotional depth, also stunts the development of the romantic centre. In some ways this does work, as by shifting the focus from the romance, the script is able to build its own identity, separately from the novel. Some of the strongest moments come with William’s players, and their plans for a new playhouse. Converting the stage into The Globe for the final scene is magical, and the joy and power of theatre is beautifully explored here.

Erica Whyman’s direction gives Hamnet significant momentum, hurtling along with a terrible, inevitable dread. There are some really beautiful moments to be found, but often they come in the pauses, when the play lets itself breathe. Some of this energy comes from the choice to cover each scene transition with a jaunty tune (Oğuz Kaplangi). This is also interspersed with sinister breathing and whispering, by sound designer Simon Baker. However, because many of the scenes are short and sharp it does stilt some of them, and prevents us from sitting with what we have seen.

It is a large cast, which serves to flesh out the rich world of the play. Madeleine Mantock’s Agnes is fiery and bold, contrasting and complementing Tom Varey’s William who is more pent up. For me the standouts, were Ajani Cabey and Alex Jarrett as the tragically fated twins. Cabey’s performance was beautiful, showing both incredible grace and joyous mischief. Jarrett was also excellent, bringing a tragic complexity to a grieving child, and one of her speeches was, for me, the emotional punch of the whole performance. Special mentions must also go to Gabriel Akuwudike’s Bartholomew whose excellent comic timing was a joy and Sarah Belcher who as Joan had a real grasp of her emotional levels, and brought a huge amount to what might’ve been a one note character.

Tom Piper’s set is ingenious, quirky and fun. Two levels framed by wooden ladders allow the cast to scamper up and down and all around, making use of every inch of the space. Using wood gives it an earthy feel, connected to Agnes’ natural healing. Prema Mehta’s lighting design brings harmony to this playful and warm set.

As an avid fan of the novel, I wanted to love this play. While I respect its ability to make the story its own, for me the emotional build felt rushed, and didn’t pay off. The story is gripping, and the performances are strong. But there is a bit of magic missing, which is what made the novel unique, and without which, the play is left feeling a little hollow.

HAMNET at the Garrick Theatre

Reviewed on 18th October 2023

by Auriol Reddaway

Photography by Manuel Harlan






Previously reviewed at this venue:

The Crown Jewels | ★★★ | August 2023
Orlando | ★★★★ | December 2022
Myra Dubois: Dead Funny | ★★★★ | September 2021



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Super High Resolution

Super High Resolution


Soho Theatre




Super High Resolution

“Ellis’ text is for the most part honest and sensitive in its portrayal, highlighting the importance of seeking help”


Nathan Ellis’ new play, Super High Resolution, which follows a junior A&E doctor as she struggles to cope with the daily stressors in her professional and personal life, finds its strength in a biting wit and well-timed comedic moments. Jasmine Blackborow portrays Anna, the play’s central figure, with sharpness and dexterity. Anna is worn thin by her sister (Leah Whitaker), her demanding boss (Catherine Cusack), and a difficult patient (Hayley Carmichael), in scenes that are equal parts pacey and tense. Director Blanche McIntyre gives these scenes space to breathe, allowing humour to seep into the play’s pervasive darkness and unease.

Andrew D Edwards’ set, in conjunction with Prema Mehta’s lighting design, creates a cold and impersonal environment. In the opening stage picture, harsh neon light washes over accordions of hospital curtains, lending the impression of metal shipping containers. The stagecraft feels appropriate in light of the continual gutting of the NHS.

It is a shame then, that to me, it feels Super High Resolution misses the mark in its handling of themes of suicide and self-harm.

I want to be clear that the production got a lot of things right. Its content warnings were detailed and clear, and the resources it lists on the play’s promotional material, both for mental health services and NHS workers, are extensive (these are shown at the end of this review). Super High Resolution does not seek to romanticise suicide either, and Ellis’ text is for the most part honest and sensitive in its portrayal, highlighting the importance of seeking help. The production, however, loses sight of this sensitivity and falls out of step with Samaritans’ guidelines in its depiction of a suicide attempt onstage. Not only is the method clearly portrayed, but the scene is noticeably drawn out, and its accompanying lighting and sound design make clear that it is intended to be the play’s climax.

In my opinion, this framing crosses a line. The play would have, in all likelihood, maintained its emotional impact without an onstage depiction, or a climactic attempt altogether. In addition, the theme of suicide (and descriptions/depictions therein) seems to be buttressing a play about the gutting of the NHS and the toll it has taken on medical professionals, not the other way around.

There is obviously a spectrum of opinions on how suicide should be handled in the medium of live performance, and Super High Resolution is far from the worst offender. It is clear that Ellis, McIntyre and the rest of the production team care about the issue, and that the play does not solely seek to cash in on shock value. But the play could have, and should have, approached the issue with more caution and sensitivity.



Reviewed on 2nd November 2022

by JC Kerr

Photography by Helen Murray



Previously reviewed at this venue:


An Evening Without Kate Bush | ★★★★ | February 2022
Y’Mam | ★★★★ | May 2022
Hungry | ★★★★★ | July 2022
Oh Mother | ★★★★ | July 2022


If SUPER HIGH RESOLUTION has affected you, the following resources are available; we encourage you to make use of them.

Clicking each logo will take you to the relevant website


You can contact Samaritans 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. You can call 116 123 (free from any phone), email [email protected] or visit some branches in person.


If you’re experiencing a mental health problem or supporting someone else, you can call SANEline on 0300 304 7000 (4.30pm–10.30pm every day)


Offers a supportive listening service to anyone with thoughts of suicide. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Helpline UK on 0800 689 5652 (open 24/7)


You can call the CALM on 0800 58 58 58 (5pm–midnight every day) if you are struggling and need to talk. Or if you prefer not to speak on the phone, you could try the CALM webchat service.


If you would prefer not to talk but want some mental health support, you could text SHOUT to 85258. Shout offers a confidential 24/7 text service providing support if you are in crisis and need immediate help.


If you’re under 35 and struggling with suicidal feelings, or concerned about a young person who might be struggling, you can call Papyrus HOPELINEUK on 0800 068 4141 (weekdays 10am-10pm, weekends 2pm-10pm and bank holidays 2pm–10pm), email [email protected] or text 07786 209 697.



For NHS workers

Wellbeing support by text for health and social care staff

All NHS staff can access free support by text 24/7. Text FRONTLINE to 85258 to talk by text with a trained volunteer.

Wellbeing support by telephone for health and social care staff

NHS staff in England can call 0800 069 6222 and NHS staff in Wales can call 0800 484 0555, daily from 7am–11pm.

Counselling and trauma phone helpline

Call 0300 303 4434, free and in confidence, 8am to 8pm 7 days a week.


Practitioner Health have teamed up with SHOUT to create a confidential 24/7 text service for PH patients. If you need support after hours you can Text NHSPH to 85258.

Practitioner Health is a free, confidential NHS primary care mental health and addiction service with expertise in treating health & care professionals.










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