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Tag Archives: Hamlet

Two Gentlemen of Verona and Kupenga Kwa Hamlet

Two GentsThe Street Theatre has brought to Canberra two of the cleverest interpreters of Shakespeare’s work who ever trotted the globe. Two Gents Productions hails from London, and are being hailed the world over for their intense physical rendering of The Two Gentlemen of Verona and Hamlet, which play in repertory this week at The Street Theatre.

For The Two Gentlemen of Verona the two performers, Denton Chikura and Tonderai Munyebvu, change between characters using the convention of a single costume piece to indicate each character. In the early stages they also call the name of the character as they take on this piece, and the custom is charming, and breaks down some of the nervousness about being able to follow such a pared down rendering…

The rest of this post is published on Australian Stage.

 
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Posted by on Wednesday, 20 March 2013 in British Theatre, Theatre, Two Gents Productions

 

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Hamlet

Having secured what I knew to be the last available ticket for Yohangza Theatre Company’s production of Hamlet, I was surprised to find myself sitting next to the South Australian Premier and his wife for the performance. The irony of watching a king’s downfall orchestrated through a theatre production while sitting next to the leader of a state government in a theatre was not lost on me, but I doubt that Mike Rann and his wife felt the same pangs of guilt as Gertrude and Claudius.

Played by Eun-Hee Kim, this Gertrude is perhaps not as guilt-ridden as some I have encountered. But whereas Gertrude is often portrayed with an underlying sense of her own moral corruption, Kim has given her an aloofness, lasting until Hamlet finally reveals his hand following the theatre scene. I prefer this change, as risky as it might be. It holds more weight with Shakespeare’s text, and in this production, in this context, it provides a profound shift in the character that is necessary to add depth for its Australian audience. This is not a criticism of the performers, but a play performed in Korean for a predominantly English-speaking audience can’t skimp on such details.

Hamlet certainly doesn’t. Played by Jung-Yong Jeon, his vacillations are as palpable as that fatal hit, and his descent into madness is beautifully paced; almost undetectable. Claudius could perhaps have emoted rather more; by both dress and demeanour he emerged more western than the rest of the cast. But in all, this cast expended enough energy and elicited enough pathos to warrant a standing ovation from the opening night audience (though the premier, notably, remained seated).

A minimalist set spares no effort, with a centre rostrum raised in the middle of what must be hundreds of kilos of rice, and surrounded by traditional Korean artworks, and Korean percussive instruments. These instruments are put to excellent use by the cast, whose timing and energy is perfectly synthesised. More intriguingly, Korean Shaman rites are used to ensure the story is at home in its Korean context.

This is a remarkably sensitive production of what I think is Shakespeare’s greatest work. It is faithful, if such a word can really be applied to any production of Shakespeare’s work later than the seventeenth century, to the characters, their motivations, fears and desires; as well as their circumstances. And it dispels in my mind any doubt that the stories of Shakespeare are absolutely universal in their application to humanity.

 

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The Hamlet Apocalypse

I think Dionysus was smiling on me when I rocked up at La Mama tonight without a booking. And to be within those hallowed walls was, as always, a humbling experience. The Danger Ensemble‘s The Hamlet Apocalypse illustrates beautifully the human inclination to cling to what we know when facing what we fear.

Director, Steven Mitchell Wright, says that “this work is very simply about a group of actors choosing to perform William Shakespeare’s Hamlet in the face of the apocalypse, the end, death, finality, loss, whichever it is for you”. And while there is an element of simplicity in its performance, there is nothing simple about the way these actors face their apocalypse. Rather, there is an understanding and intense depiction of the very human emotions of fear, anticipation and determination.
Shakespeare’s Hamlet is the perfect partner for this story, and its broad plot arc has been deftly interwoven with these actors’ story. The cast delivers Shakespeare’s dialogue with aplomb, and I may well have wanted to see them simply do Hamlet, were it not for the fascinating development of the actors’ characters. As the cast counts down to the apocalypse, their own fears, insecurities and personalities render some of Shakespeare’s most profound characters dull by comparison with these performers, whose experiences resonate spectacularly in La Mama’s confined space.
 
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Posted by on Friday, 9 October 2009 in La Mama, The Danger Ensemble, William Shakespeare

 

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I Hate Hamlet

I love going to Theatre 3. There is magic in the place. I don’t care that the decor is old and tired, I only ever notice it for a moment, because before long you feel the atmosphere of genuine theatre lovers mingling and engaging, like Liberals in the Press Club or bikies in a pub. This was what it was like at Theatre 3 last night, especially straight after the curtain went down on the opening performance of I Hate Hamlet.

The plot revolves around Andrew, a successful television soap actor from Los Angeles, who relocates to New York after having agreed to play Hamlet in a non-profit production in Central Park. Problems arise when he reveals that he hates Hamlet, and mainly agreed to play the role because of his girlfriend’s love for the play. Fortuitously, the ghost of the late, great actor Barrymore, who once occupied Andrew’s gothic apartment and played Hamlet, can return to mentor Andrew through the process of preparing for the most important role of his life.

A couple of the people I spoke to afterwards expressed the same surprise I had; why had I not heard of this play? It was written way back in 1991, and is such an astute and passionate exploration of our attitudes towards Shakespeare that it shocks me to think that it isn’t part of the curriculum of every university’s theatre department. It looks quite deeply into the psyche of the greatest play of all time while still retaining a modern view that is unencumbered by social expectations about how we should view the bard. In short, it is respectful without being reverential. It treats the way society hallows Shakespeare with ridicule, while still holding a deep and profound respect for the man’s humanity, wisdom and power.

When I first started my academic careerafter dropping out of high school and bumming around dead end jobs for a few yearsone of the first pieces of literature from the English Canon that I encountered was Hamlet. I struggled with it, and came to some kind of understanding of it, rudimentary as it was. Over the years my love for the play has deepened. In the twelve years since first reading it I have seen more than ten stage productions and every film I could clap my eyes on, and I have never been disappointed by modern theatre practitioners’ capacity to glean some new kernel of wisdom from the pages. Just like Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, I Hate Hamlet further unpacks Shakespeare’s story, treating it as a living, breathing work of art rather than a museum piece.

Canberra Repertory’s production is simply brilliant, with the considerable talents and experience of Ian Croker in the role of Barrymore admirably matched by my old university classmate Glenn Brown as Andrew. Their swordfight was so much fun that I found found it difficult to resist the urge to get up and join in! The entire cast carries off the production brilliantly, with excellent comic timing (perhaps with a couple of hiccups that I am putting down to opening night), brilliant wit, and impeccable characterisation.

Now all I need is a show I can audition for with a sword fight…

 
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Posted by on Friday, 20 February 2009 in William Shakespeare

 

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