Grand Theft Hamlet
Grand Theft Hamlet

Grand Theft Hamlet

Dir. Pinny Grylls, Sam Crane / 2024 / 90 mins / UK / English / Australian Premiere

The show really must go on as two locked-down actors take Shakespeare to the least likely stage imaginable: the streets of Grand Theft Auto.

January 2021: English actor buddies Sam Crane and Mark Oosterveen are stuck in COVID lockdown. With nowhere to work, they hang out together in the multiplayer videogame Grand Theft Auto Online, hooning around in stolen cars and killing everyone onscreen. Sam’s wife Pinny Grylls, a similarly unemployed documentary maker, busies herself filming them. When Mark and Sam stumble across the ‘Vinewood Bowl’, an in-game amphitheatre, what starts as a joke – could someone actually perform Shakespeare there? – swiftly escalates into a playful collision between the simulated thuggery, the violent mayhem of Shakespeare’s Denmark and the real-world camaraderie of theatre dorks.

Grylls takes advantage of GTA’s freewheeling camera angles and spectacular locations to shoot completely inside the game, but also creates her own avatar, becoming a key character. Wacky amateur theatrics evoking the world of Christopher Guest ensue as a motley cast recruited from online forums gathers to awkwardly rehearse through headset mics – when they’re not being murdered by other players or pursued by NPC cops. Beyond its inherent hilarity, this winner of SXSW’s Grand Jury Prize for Documentary Feature is a surprisingly poignant story about unbridled creativity even during the worst of times.

“Riotously funny and surprisingly moving … As much a story about video games as it is about community and finding new avenues of emotional connection.” – Mashable