The Kennedy Center


Royal Shakespeare Company: Hamlet

Wednesday, May 2, 2018 - Sunday, May 6, 2018


The legendary company brings the North American premiere of its riveting, contemporary take on the Bard's searing tragedy to the Kennedy Center, following an acclaimed UK run in 2016. 

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 North American premiere!

“Simply a terrific Hamlet, a blazing new star standing at the heart of an intelligent and engrossing production”

The Sunday Times

Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder…

The legendary Royal Shakespeare Company returns to the Kennedy Center for the first time since 2007 with the Bard's searing tragedy of murder and revenge.

A student is called home from university to find his life turned upside down. He had the world at his feet, but now everything has changed. Who can be trusted, who can be believed? Sent by the ghost of his father to avenge his brutal death, Hamlet’s mission to expose the truth is a perilous journey of madness, murder, and lost love. What will ultimately become of a young man sent to kill? For its 2016 world premiere in Shakespeare's home of Stratford-upon-Avon, featuring rising star Paapa Essiedu in the title role and directed by Simon Godwin, this critically lauded production won raves for both Godwin's vision of Hamlet's Denmark as a state in west Africa and Essiedu's revelatory portrayal. 

Performance Timing: Part One - 1 hour, 40 min; Intermission - 20 min.; Part Two - 1 hour, 11 min.

More insight from director Simon Godwin:
“Paapa Essiedu is British with Ghanaian heritage. When Paapa and I talked about the production, I realized how radical it might be to see Denmark through the lens of a completely different culture, a culture that Paapa himself had experienced. I began to imagine a Denmark re-conceived as a modern state influenced by the ritual, traditions, and beauty of west Africa. So, our setting is full of the color, emotional intensity, and passion associated with that part of the world. As Hamlet, Paapa is intelligent, youthful, and charismatic, with a contemporary wit. But Paapa’s portrayal is also mercurial with an element of danger. Part ghost story, part family tragedy, part dark comedy, Hamlet is an urgent and gripping thriller.”

More about rising star Paapa Essiedu:
Hamlet at the Kennedy Center will mark this rising star's U.S. debut in the role. Paapa Essiedu won "Best Performance in a Play" at the UK Theatre Awards and received the Ian Charleson Award in 2016. Essiedu has appeared in RSC productions of The Mouse and his Child and The Merry Wives of Windsor and is also known to UK audiences for his roles in the popular television series Utopia and Not Safe for Work. Additional casting will be announced at a later date.

More production credits

Hamlet is designed by Paul Wills with lighting by Paul Anderson. Music for the production is composed by Jamiroquai percussionist Sola Akingbola. Sound is by Christopher Shutt.

Watch and Listen

Hamlet at The Kennedy Center