Kung Fu Hamlet is a play, presented by No Refunds Theatre Co., which combines the exquisite drama and tragedy of Shakespeare's most famous play with the fast-paced action and so-bad-it's-good mentality of a kung fu movie. Here's a quote from the Tech Goddess of the show:

Think of all your beloved stock kung fu flick characters: the cocky hero, the wimpy sidekick, the delicate princess who can really kick butt, the demonic bad guy... and translate that into 17th century Elizabethan drama. The parallels are astounding! So we took it and ran. We ended up with something too funny to believe.

It's all true. This show is a pile of fun. It might be something of a one trick pony, and indeed the only real criticism I have found of it is that there is not enough to it. But it is not too long, and for an hour of entertaining fluff it's absolutely top-notch. The script, adapted from Shakespeare by Gabe Llanas, is consistently clever (paraphrased from memory: "You should go to a nunnery! Maybe they can teach you some real kung fu!"), blending Hamlet's plot with the kung fu movie style flawlessly. Also, as the Bryant Lake Bowl's blurb puts it, "sooner or later, everybody fights everybody else," and the fight choreography is excellent as well. Many of the performers have considerable credentials in various forms of martial arts.

One of the most noticeable and endearing features of Kung Fu Hamlet is the live dubbing of the dialogue. Part of the fun of a kung fu flick is the poor synchronization of lips and words, and it would be criminal to leave this out of a show that claims to have all the best - no, worst - no, best features of a kung fu movie. Fortunately, this show duplicates that effect on the stage through the cunning use of people just offstage with microphones.

All of the people involved in Kung Fu Hamlet are from around the Twin Cities area, and many are or have been connected in some way to Macalester College; at least five are alumni or current students. The show was first revealed at the Minnesota Fringe Festival 2002 and received positive reviews. Its initial run was at the Bryant Lake Bowl in Minneapolis; it was initially scheduled for January and February 2003 but was extended through April due to its popularity. If you are in the Twin Cities area, seeing it is highly recommended. The show is coming back to the Minnesota Fringe Festival in 2003; it's playing on August 3, 4, 5, 10, and 11. See http://www.fringefestival.org/ for more information.

By the way, in case you didn't have enough reasons to see Kung Fu Hamlet: While doing research for this node, I discovered that Neil Gaiman took his daughter Maddy to see it at the 2002 Fringe Festival. From his journal archives:

Maddy is off to see Kung Fu Hamlet at the Minneapolis fringe this afternoon, so I put on a video of Pedicab Driver for her, to give her context. I'm astonished at quite how much an almost-8-year old girl can enjoy an undubbed Sammo Hung movie.

Is that cool or what?


Gaiman, Neil. Web journal. http://www.neilgaiman.com/journal_archives/2002_08_01_archive.asp. 11 Aug 2002.
Bryant Lake Bowl. "Kung Fu Hamlet." Advertisement.

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