Adrian Hooke was about to pop on the head of his monkey costume and run on stage to entertain a hoard of excited children when he paused to take a phone call from Pop-up Globe's Hamlet director David Lawrence.

"So, Hamlet, shall we do this?' Lawrence wanted to know. Absolutely, said Hooke, then without a moment to digest what he'd signed up for, he was on stage as an anthropomorphic animal keeping the kids happy.

Such is the life of a working actor and musician who's keen to keep doing what he loves and will play the humble roles as well as the great with an equal measure of enthusiasm. Because what's he signed up for is one of the greatest roles a young male actor can portray in one of Shakespeare's most powerful and popular tragedies.

"When Hamlet comes calling, you step up to the plate because, if you don't step up to the plate, Hamlet's probably not going to come calling again," says Hooke, who's in his third season with Pop-up Globe and this summer notches up 300 performances with the company.


He's moved from smaller roles in PuG's first productions, Romeo and Juliet and Twelfth Night, to more significant ones in Henry V and As You Like It, playing the heroic Orlando in the latter, so Hamlet might be seen as a natural progression for the nearly 30 year old.

Actor Adrian Hooke takes on the role of Hamlet in Pop-up Globe's next summer production. Photo/Christian Tjandrawinata
Actor Adrian Hooke takes on the role of Hamlet in Pop-up Globe's next summer production. Photo/Christian Tjandrawinata

It's taken him from PuG's first venue, in the Basement Theatre's sloping carpark, to its home at the Ellerslie Racecourse and onto Melbourne where he recalls a performance or two being cancelled when temperatures pushed the mercury to 38°- and that was before the city's current heatwave.

"I remember one show, on a day that was still very hot but not hot enough to cancel, looking up into the audience and seeing a young guy in the balcony with his head on his arm against the metal rail probably trying to cool down and thinking, 'oh mate, you don't need to stay if you're that hot!'"

Hooke can also remember the first ground-breaking season, at the beginning of 2016 which now seems like a lifetime ago, when the cast shared bathrooms with the public and sat in makeshift dressing rooms under the Myers Park bridge with a gramophone and records for pre-show entertainment.

"If you'd had said to me, 'we've built a working replica of Shakespeare's second Globe theatre out of scaffolding and it's going to be bigger than some sporting events' well, I would have thought you were insane," he admits. "I thought, 'not in this country, not with 400 year old plays' but here we are and it's all been amazing.

"To work at this level, to be part of this company, is remarkable. I love it, I love the people, the company and the interaction with the audiences."

The auditions for Hamlet were lengthy and intense, highlighting the complexity and demands of the play and the role itself. Accepting the lead meant adhering to a stricter way of learning lines using the Pomodoro Technique – a time management method which uses a timer to break down work into intervals which are interspersed with short breaks.

Hooke meditates in these breaks, saying the technique has helped calm worries about the number of lines to learn and whether he could actually memorise them all. Does he have a favourite scene?


"To say would be clichéd! But, I mean, Hamlet – every scene is awesome, the complexity of it; it's just an amazing powerful and passionate piece of theatre."

•Adrian Hooke joins fellow New Zealand actors Michael Hurst, Tim Balme, Simon Vincent and Gareth Reeves among those who have played Hamlet. Reeves is now starring as Harry Potter in the Melbourne production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

What: Measure for Measure and Hamlet
Where & when: Pop-up Globe, Ellerslie Raceway; from February 9