The Smu Reviews

Pop Culture
Music / Art / Pop Culture

A revolution and a revelation: Hamilton at the Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a Scotsman,
dropped in the middle of a forgotten spot in the Caribbean
by providence, impoverished, in squalor,
grow up to be a hero and a scholar?

In it’s now legendary fusion of history, hip-hop, and heart, Hamilton makes its mark at the Edinburgh Festival Theatre this month, delivering Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony Award-winning masterpiece to Scottish soil.

Led by a stellar portrayal of Hamilton by Shaq Taylor as the flawed but charismatic protagonist, the ensemble cast barrel through the performance with infectious energy and abundant talent. Special mentions must go to Sam Oladeinde as the taciturn Burr, and Jonathan Hemrmosa-Lopez in the joint roles of Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson. Likewise, Rhys West steals every scene he chews his way through, delivering his hilarious King George pitched somewhere between Lord Farquaad and Hugh Grant.

Miranda’s ingenious blend of hip-hop, R&B, and traditional musical theatre breaths new life into the story of America’s founding while miraculously avoiding the potential pitfalls of youth-baiting ‘cringe’ that often plague other crossover genres. The choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler bolsters this, employing a mixture of realism and inventive metaphor, without becoming distracting or unnecessarily abstract. The staging of the climactic dual in particular, complete with it’s own version of bullet time, stands out as a fantastic example of using movement to punch home the emotional power of the narrative.

Hamilton is an exploration of ambition, love, legacy, and the pursuit of freedom – of aspirations and the sacrifices required to achieve them. Despite its period setting it is as vital and relevant as any contemporary-based work, and in an age increasingly marked by political division, the themes feel both universal and timeless.

This groundbreaking and spectacular show clearly displays why it has already taken Broadway and the West End by storm, and it’s great to see it now reaching new audiences as it tours nationally. Whilst the lyrics come fast and thick, I never found it hard to follow and though the program includes a historical timeline of events, the broad brushstrokes of the story are deftly punctuated so that no prior knowledge of the period is required. Whether you’re a die-hard fan already or experiencing Hamilton for the first time, this production will grip you from start to finish.


All words by Susan Sloan.