Steve Speirs, one of Britain’s most recognisable film and television actors, proved that he is as engaging on stage as he is on set when he starred in Richard James’ one-act comedy thriller I am Hamlet at Sheringham Little Theatre on Saturday (July 29).

Every nuance of expression in that famous face was detectable in the intimate space of the 180-seat theatre as the play evolved from laugh-out-loud lines to dark plot twists that delighted a sold-out first-night audience.

His foil in this double-hander was young Welsh actor Lewes Roberts who could not have appeared more comfortable on stage, demonstrating a range that encompassed perfect comic timing and a clear love of Shakespearean language.

I am Hamlet is set in the rehearsal room of a run-down am-dram theatre, where Speirs’ character Tom Grainger is pottering about, tidying, making coffee, when Simon Prentice, played by Roberts, arrives unexpectedly and asks to audition for the role of Hamlet, despite having no acting experience.

The comedy back-and-forth between the two actors shows a clear rapport, and the elegant direction by Julia Roberts allows the subtle introduction of the dark threads that lead to the play’s climax and its clever symmetry with the bard’s masterpiece.

The play lasts about an hour and is followed by a chat with the cast, who answer questions on the performance and their careers, and for whom nothing, it seems, is out of bounds.

Speirs is happy to talk about everything from writing and directing his hit sitcom The Tuckers to performances in films such as Pirates of the Caribbean and Star Wars, and TV classics like Stella, Extras and Upstart Crow.

I am Hamlet, which runs until August 5, launched the summer season at Sheringham Little Theatre.

A new comedy Shanty (August 8-12) centres on a seaside family trying to overcome business problems and bereavement by forming a band, while Hound of the Baskervilles (August 15-19) is a spoof of the famous Sherlock Holmes moors mystery, said to have been inspired by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s visit to Cromer Hall.

Run for Your Man (August 22-26) provides a twist on Ray Cooney’s classic farce Run for Your Wife, but with the two-timing taxi-driver switched to a woman.

It is the first performance of the play in the UK.

The season closes with Private Lives (August 29-September 2), Noel Coward’s witty portrayal of a divorced couple who find themselves in adjoining hotel rooms while the ex-husband is on honeymoon with his new wife.

Lewes is staying on in the town after I am Hamlet to appear in The Hound of the Baskervilles and Private Lives.

Review by Steve Scott