HAMLET isn’t a dark, brooding young man with an overly fondness for his mum and the potential to become a psychotic killer. He’s a she. In fact, Shakespeare’s central character we learn is something of a daddy’s girl.

How is this possible? Well, anything is possible in theatreland, and especially so in the world of the Bard in the Botanics, the Shakespeare season which runs each summer in Glasgow.

Thanks to artistic director Gordon Barr’s creative imagination, this year Hamlet has the XX chromosome. “When we started to talk about how to play him we thought about playing him as a male,” says Nicole Cooper, who plays the eponymous lead. “We were open minded about it, but the more we talked about the idea the more it felt right to play Hamlet as a female. And then it became really interesting trying to look at the relationships between people.”

It looked tricky. Hamlet, as we know is (was) an angry, frustrated, potentially mad man. He stabs Claudius. At the end of the play the stage is littered with bodies. It could well be a scene from Killing Eve. “Yes, and that’s a great example,” says Cooper, “because women, when pushed, can become killers too.”

But what of the writing? Does it transfer easily when the gender is switched? “Yes, well some of Hamlet’s language is fairly misogynistic,” agrees Cooper. “He’s aggressive towards his mother, for example, and that doesn’t quite work when he becomes a woman. Yet, some of his behaviour is feminine. For example, he struggles with his role as a man. Hamlet is a lover, not a fighter. And one of his biggest issues is he can’t inflict violence unless he’s 100 per cent sure if this is the right thing to do.”

Does Cooper feel a female Hamlet would have the same disgust towards her mother given her mother’s marrying her husband’s brother? “Yes, because it’s about grief. I recently lost my father and it’s something I’m in touch with at the moment. When people pass away you can return to being a little child-like. You find yourself hero-worshipping a man. And Hamlet hero-worshipped her father. For her to suddenly see this new relationship there’s a feeling of ‘How dare you!’ And we can assume Hamlet has always been a bit of a daddy’s girl.”

Cooper continues; “She and her mother have always battled for her father’s affection. Again, none of us wants to admit that our parents have faults. And there’s no doubt Hamlet thinks her father is wonderful.”

The actress adds; “You also have the situation whereby the ghost has asked Hamlet to avenge his death. But Hamlet doesn’t know what to do. Perhaps this is why she has been away at university.”

Has Cooper been thinking of her late father during rehearsals? “Yes, it makes you think about the whole notion of grief. And as well as losing my dad I also lost several other members of my family. It was all so thick and fast I couldn’t come to terms with it. To cope I had to step outside of myself.”

The award-winning actress found comfort/distraction in involvement with her three girls. “I remember doing the school run, and having this horrible news in the back of my head. I knew I had to carry on as normal, yet at the same time I was asking myself ‘Just how much can the human heart take?’

“Death is something we have to navigate. You expect the sky to be different colour after this seismic event, yet you still have to make packed lunches. You have to find a way to make life carry on, especially when the loss comes one after another.”

Cooper found comfort during her father’s memorial in Greece, where he was born. “I needed the closure. It sounds corny, but you come to believe the person isn’t lost to you. You just see them in a different way.”

She adds; “But what I also learned from my experience was how certain types of grief can drive someone to extremes. That’s why in our version of Hamlet we are asking ‘Is she mad, or is the grief so overwhelming?’ The central focus on this version will be on grief. Gertrude has it. Hamlet is in the middle of this hurricane of grief and she can’t cope. I think the violence is indicative of someone who’s exploded. At the end of the play she is avenging her father’s death, her mother has been killed in front of her and she’s just been poisoned.”

Cooper adds, smiling; “All that would make you angry. And on top of all that she’s been visited by ghosts.”

Hamlet, The Bard in the Botanics, Glasgow, July 20 – August 3 at 7.45pm