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Jonathan Forbes on Playing 'Hamlet'

02 Apr, 2019    added by : Paul Hansen








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Jonathan Forbes,  who stars in the Amazon series Catastrophe as well as iTV’s Fearless and Dublin Murders, is performing the title role of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet in the inaugural production of a new theater company called Shakespeare@.  Jacquelyn Claire, in her review for, referred to this production of Hamlet as a “sensorium of theatrical perfection.”

Directed by Sean Hagerty, the cast features a number of other rising and prominent actors of film, television and stage including Eden Brolin (Freeform’s Beyond, and Arkansas with Vince Vaughn and John Malkovich), Andrew Sellon (Gotham), Aria Shahghasemi (CW’s Legacies)  and Mark Torres (Amadeus and NBC’s Manifest).

Hamlet is, of course, considered one of the world’s great artistic creations and, in brief,  is the story of a Danish prince who suspects that his deceased father was murdered. The production is performing through April 14th at the ornate Grace Church Van Vorst in Jersey City (39 Erie Street, Jersey City – a five-minute walk from the Path Train). Tickets are $25. Considering the importance of Hamlet, and the talent and credentials of the cast and director,  anyone with an interest in theatre in the Tri-State area should see this production.  For more information log on to

ScreenPicks posed some questions to Forbes about his performance of Hamlet.

Was it daunting to take on the role of Hamlet since it is so central to the theatrical canon? Are there parts of the play that you particularly enjoy performing?

Jonathan Forbes: Absolutely. However, I was so pleased to get the opportunity that I didn’t think of the challenge in those terms. I enjoyed preparing for the role before rehearsals started. It was ‘a lonely impulse of delight’ to wander around Hampstead Heath and the canal towpath in London learning the lines. I have favorite parts of the play for sure, plus other parts that are technically challenging. I love the players’ arrival and sparring with Polonius but those aren’t necessarily the top two moments! It’s really not that kind of play.

Is your portrayal and the production exploring new perspectives on Hamlet or is a more traditional approach to the script being pursued?

Forbes: Everybody always thinks they are doing clever things I suppose but I’ve been hugely excited by our director Sean Hagerty’s open approach to scene and character. And yes – there are some strong and unorthodox readings of certain moments. His reordering of the play’s sequence of events is radical and it works beautifully in my opinion.

Have there been prior portrayals of Hamlet that you have particularly admired?

Forbes: From the ones I’ve seen live I would pick out Andrew Scott. His production was very different from ours and his performance very different from mine. He is outstanding and has an admirable ability to move quickly from each moment and feeling without lingering.

Do you use the same type of preparation and technique in performing Hamlet as with contemporary roles or is your acting approach different?

Forbes: I would say that it’s the same sport regardless of medium or writing style, but Hamlet is a role that tests and stretches an actor. He is a man who tries out many roles himself, or so I believe anyway.

Why do you think that there is such a mystique about the play and how is it relevant to contemporary audiences?

Forbes: I think it’s because the play is about us as a species and how we all play roles. Hamlet seems unable to join in this charade and yet he is the biggest ‘actor’ in the play. It’s a piece that doesn’t fit into the obvious categories of comedy/tragedy/revenge and it was written 400 years ago. Plus the language is just so brilliant.

Is there anything, in general, you would like to tell audiences about this production of Hamlet?

Forbes: An audience member last night said he thought this is what Shakespeare should be like for today’s audience. I hope that’s true, and at least I can say that it’s not a lingering indulgent piece. And the fight is ace! I would just say come and see the play. We had glowing reviews Hamlet is the very first production of Shakespeare@ and we run through April 14th. Our director Sean Hagerty plans to place his productions in out of the ordinary venues in Jersey City. That’s what the @ in Shakespeare@ is about. It’s very exciting and Sean is just the man to do it!

Would you like to share with us what your future projects are?

Forbes: The next things to appear will be Dublin Murders on BBC which is a dark and somewhat supernatural ‘whodunnit’, as well as Eve – a low budget Feature which is fun and also rather grisly!

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