‘It is very hard’ - Eddie Izzard lifts the lid on playing 23 characters in Shakespeare’s Hamlet

Virgin Radio

15 May 2024, 11:22

Eddie Izzard talks to Chris Evans at Virgin Radio.

Credit: Virgin Radio

Eddie Izzard has spoken about starring in a unique re-telling of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and about playing the many characters "with equal honour."

The legendary comedian plays 23 characters in the show, including women, men, ghosts, scholars, tyrants, courtiers, lovers, fools and poets. Joining the Chris Evans Breakfast Show with webuyanycar to speak about the one-woman show, Eddie said: “People say, ‘Is this a comedy version?’ No, this is William Shakespeare's Hamlet, completely honourable to what he did. I think if he was alive and watched it, he'd go, ‘This is good, I should have done this version!'" 

The narrative sees Prince Hamlet determined to take revenge following the death of the King of Denmark, initiating a cascade of events that will destroy both family and state. The production runs at London’s Riverside Studios from Thursday 23rd May to Sunday 30th June, following a triple-extended run in New York, and a spell in Chicago earlier this year. “It is very hard, because it's thirteen-and-a-half-thousand words, which I had to learn first,” the comedy star told Chris.



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The classic Shakespeare play has been adapted by Eddie's brother, Mark Izzard. “He's kept all the poetry, all the honour to all the great characters, and I'm playing men and women, as a trans person playing them with equal honour. And I’m getting great reviews for that as well. So that's very pleasing,” the play’s star said.

“You're jumping from character to character, and you want to land them perfectly and they’re in different places in their arcs, it’s a really tricky thing to do. And it just takes a lot of mental effort, but I'm loving doing it and the audience are giving me great feedback.

“You go through the mill in it, and they come with you on this journey, and Shakespeare is leading you all the way.”

Speaking more about audiences’ reaction to the adaptation, she said: “They come open-minded to say, ‘Take us on your journey and we will come with you’ if you're doing good work. If you're not doing good work, they will close their minds and say, ‘Half-time, I’ve gotta get home…’” 

Eddie said to Chris: “The unusual thing though is that Shakespeare probably had a Birmingham accent. Because he was from very near Birmingham.”

Despite having already performed the play many times in NYC and Chicago, Eddie revealed: “We're doing rehearsals having already played for three months.” 

She explained: “We're just adjusting certain things. And it's like icing on top of the icing to make sure that it lands absolutely perfectly on the press night on the 28th of May. But it's in a great position and I am enjoying doing it, but we can change things and say, ‘That actually shouldn't be there. And that should be done. We should lean more into this because this is very important.’

On whether she would like to one day perform the play at Shakespeare’s Globe, on the bank of the River Thames in London, Eddie said: “I would love to do that in the future.” However, it might not be for a while because, “they're all programmed up the wazoo, as Shakespeare would say!”

When asked whether another one-person show could be on the cards in the future, Eddie replied: “I was trying to get to here. If you think about it, there's no real place after Hamlet. Hamlet's really right up there. And it's a very tricky one to land. People say ‘So what's the next one?’ I’m going, ‘I'm gonna stick to this one.’ And as you know, politics is also swirling in the background, so I don't know what’s going on.”

Read what Eddie told Chris about how she comes up with comedy ideas here.

Hamlet plays at London’s Riverside Studio from 23rd May to 30th June. For tickets and information visit eddieizzardhamlet.com.

For more great interviews listen to The Chris Evans Breakfast Show with webuyanycar weekdays from 6:30am on Virgin Radio, or catch up on-demand here.