Welcome to our Featured Play Spotlight. Hamlet, Zombie Killer of Denmark by Chris Stiles is a gruesomely comic adaptation of Shakespeare’s classic tragedy. It blends the original text with new, zombified dialogue, with much of the new text written in the iambic tradition of Shakespeare.
Denmark is plagued with zombies led by Hamlet’s uncle/step-father, the current king of Denmark.
When Hamlet learns from his zombified father the plot of his uncle – a plan to turn Denmark into a land of the undead – Hamlet knows he must stop him! Or not. If he could only be sure…
Why did we publish this play?
If you want to open the door to Shakespeare, sometimes you need to use a zombie or two…. and the fabulous thing about this play is that the zombies aren’t just shoe-horned into the story because its trendy. Chris has made them work within the existing story. It’s amazing how the zombie theme fits into Hamlet – the undead already has a presence with Hamlet Sr roaming the castle walls.
Further to that, Chris has put a lot of work into blending the original text with new zombified dialogue. All grunts and groans are in iambic pentameter, of course. It didn’t take us more than a few pages to know this was a great play.
Let’s hear from the author!
1. Why did you write this play?
I had spent a week at an event for English and Drama teachers called Camp Shakespeare at Kansas State University. It was 12 hours a day of Shakespeare for five straight days, and we did a ton of Hamlet. It was so packed into my head, I had no choice but to sit down and write something Shakespearean.
2. Describe the theme in one or two sentences.
“How to deal with your stupid parents, when one of them is not your real dad and is also a zombie.”
3. What’s the most important visual for you in this play?
I think, like the real Shakespeare plays, set is secondary. And while a zombie costume is important – I’ve seen some incredible zombie pics from productions around the world – the most important visual is to act like a zombie, move like a zombie, walk like a zombie.
4. If you could give one piece of advice for those producing the play, what would it be?
Take liberties with Yorick! If you stick to the script, he is funny, but he can be outrageously funny. I had the privilege of playing Yorick myself in one production. Being the playwright, I didn’t have to worry about going too far off script. I gave Yorick props, and at any point in the script Yorick was given the stage, he took advantage of it, performing all sorts of zombie jester acts. The best part was after Hamlet dies, I had Yorick kill himself in grief, only to rise from the dead to announce (in Zombie talk) that he had staged his suicide as a big practical joke. And while demonstrating how he fooled everyone, he accidentally stabs himself and dies. I encourage anyone who takes on Yorick to go crazy with improvisation.
5. Why is this play great for student performers?
It’s a great introduction to the greatest play of all time, and it’s a way to see that iambic pentameter isn’t necessarily Shakespearean. And it’s fun!
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