King Hamlin is a shocking horror drama about gang crime in London. Hamlin, 17, left school without learning any useful facts or skills. He’s even missing a shirt to wear so he shows up to a job interview looking like a drifter and starts insulting his future boss. No job for him. He dreams of studying computer software, but he does not own a laptop and seems unable to afford one.
His life is devoid of functioning adults. There is no teacher, parent or older friend who can advise him. No father, of course. His poor father was stabbed to death because he was “too good for the neighborhood”. Which is a new cause of crime in London. An excess of virtue can stab you, it seems. Her distraught 34-year-old mother is a whimsical girl who plans to make a fortune selling sprigs of lavender in flowerpots. She gets into debt.
These lost souls are the sad products of an educational system that has totally failed to prepare them for life. One wonders what program was taught to them. Without a doubt, a tonic mix of climate change, human rights and how to put a condom on a banana.
At home, Mom adopts a strange moral code that encourages Hamlin to become a criminal. She will not allow foul language but she considers it acceptable, and even desirable, to discipline him by punching him in the face. Hence his desire to use violence in the street. His mother showed him the way. Hamlin teams up with a local drug dealer who demonstrates how to stab his rivals in the head, leg, and chest. (The head is the best target, we learn.) This seems to be Hamlin’s first encounter with education. And he turns out to be a good student. He comes out of his tutorial with a talent he can sell – the ability to commit murder.
It looks like hellish drama but it’s easy to watch as the characters are surprisingly engaging and the dialogue ripples with energy. Harris Cain (Hamlin) is clearly a find. He has a beautiful original appearance, a lean and tall figure and bundles of natural charm. One to follow.
The Anatomy of Melancholy, at the Barbican, is a multimedia spectacle set in a microbial research laboratory where devilish experiments are performed on innocent plants. Platters of saplings and wild grasses smother under blinding lights. Vials and bottles of strange serums jostle alongside blood samples and test tubes containing a vile turquoise secretion. There are unlabeled bottles that may contain new forms of shampoo that are about to squirt into the eyeballs of captive rabbits.
On the floor is a murder victim, face down, dressed in a dark suit and white shirt. He looks like a Swiss globalist recently murdered by a bunch of anti-vaxxers. But no. The dead globalist fidgets as the show begins. He is alive! He gets up and begins to inspect the experimental petri dishes. He picks up a bowl of mutant triffid leaves and angrily throws it on the floor. He has now started singing through the collected ballads of 16th-century depressive John Dowland, whose work examines the heartaches of love. The globalist crooner finds a tray of indigestion pills and arranges them in three rows on a glass shelf. Is he about to commit suicide? No chance.
He continues to sing. He is joined on stage by a musician carrying a fantastically complex lute called theorbo. It has two necks of unequal lengths and over a dozen catgut strings, and it looks like it was built by Brian May as a novelty gift for Jimmy Page. The theorbist plucks tunes from his wondrous instrument as the globalist continues to tweet about his romantic woes.
Then a new artistic element arrives. A voiceover begins reciting phrases from books on depression by Sigmund Freud and Robert Burton. One thing becomes clear. These experts on poverty were themselves colossally unhappy. The quote from Freud tells us that all human personality is built from the ruins of broken relationships. Apparently, Freud did not consider that relationships could be strong, lasting and beneficial, and he convinced himself that all humans are emotionally crippled. Perhaps he should have spent less time with his narcissistic, self-pity clientele. Next, we learn from Robert Burton that he wrote about misery as an alternative to feeling miserable himself.
This is not a show to put a spring in your step. The creator, Netia Jones, apparently wanted to mix old love songs with a topical epidemiology mime routine. Or was she looking for another result? Your guess is as bad as mine. The audience listened in respectful silence and applauded gratefully at the end. Maybe they wanted to go home to catch a funny TV show.
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