The setting was still 'Denmark' but clearly in the present, and the rotten state was African: virtually the entire cast was African or of African origin, as were the music, accents, materials, furniture and politics. Over-elaborate military uniforms were the order of the day for Claudius and his subalterns, or shiny silk suits and brightly patterned fabrics.
The acting was superb without exception. Essiedu played Hamlet as sulky, sarcastic, sexually twisted and slyly mocking. Tanya Moodie was superb as Gertrude: a touch of Winnie Mandela about her, regal, morally adrift but determined to hang on to power. Cyril Nri had a tough job as Polonius: foolish old man or obsequious courtier who knows how to survive shifting power. The scenes with his daughter Ophelia (Natalie Simpson) are often played as evidence that he's a droning old bore, but this time his paternalistic advice seemed genuine and heartfelt. Simpson was just wonderful as Ophelia: it's a problematic part, moving from carefree teen to maddened victim but she made it comprehensible and moving. The other interesting casting choices were a pair of white actors as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern: James Cooney and Bethan Cullinane. They started out as Hamlet's old university mates, looking like a pair of Inter-railers, then very convincingly got sucked into his uncle's machinations initially out of concern but before long due to self-interest.
That aside: it was a wonderful performance. Highly recommended.
The other thing I did this weekend was co-host a meeting to propose a Literature Festival in this city. Well over 50 people turned up so it looks like it's happening. What, where and who is yet to be decided but these are merely details. Now we just have to form a committee (oh god, another committee) and find some money. It's going to be in January because a) there aren't any other literary festivals in the winter and b) there's nothing else to do. The plan is to have a small number of well-known people but to really make it a festival of local literary activity: workshops and so on rather than just sitting there listening to visitors from the world of Literature. We don't want to imply that Literature isn't going on here, or is the preserve of other kinds of people. We shall see…