I do love a good opening night. What a delicious clusterfuck of a show.
The Danger Ensemble are well regarded amongst those that know about these things, for their daring performance art and vigorous commitment to experimental theatre philosophies.
In this production, they take that hallowed actors grail, Hamlet, and turn it on its head, treating it with equal measures of reverence and subversion. In the days leading up to the performance, I was reflecting on Shakespeare, how it is often considered twee, the humour forced, the language hard to consume, the tragedy even amusing, as one smiles upon a tween romance. As a long-term lover of theatre, I still attended maybe twelve productions before I found one that truly grasped the wry humour of the bard.
This show gets it.
It gets that Shakespeare is funny. It gets that it ought to mean something. It pokes fun of it, whilst taking itself seriously at the same time. It is committed to the original, even as it tears it apart with both hands. It gets that tragedy is a car-crash, that you can’t tear your eyes away from.
It challenges the very shape of the stage, moving between the boards, the broken fourth wall, a very personal kind of introspection, and even, finally, a reminder that a greater power is watching, and is drawing us irrevocably towards a bloody end. Moving between the original lines of the play (done perfectly – or else), and a casual feeling of ad-libbed repartee between performers, and very personal confessionals… This play stabs at what it is to be an actor, about why we are driven to be artists, about the passions that simmer between the human players that take on the mantle of these old familiar faces, about the niggling doubts that are always lingering at the edge of one’s soul.
We are asked if regret is eternal, if redemption can be taken into our own hands.
I love a Suzuki-trained cast. It is a style of performance that forces a tempo with the physical, it gives great gravitas to movement, and it is deliciously done here. A fabulously irreverent Rosencrantz, a ghost that will not die, an Ophelia made real out of flesh and desire, a queen who made the choice she had to make. A loyal servant who desperately wants to make things right that could never be right again. The king is dead, long live the king. He wanted to be king, and now he must live with himself. And a sparkling young Hamlet who follows the darkness deep down into the valley all the way to the shore.
There are some big names in the cast, if you are into that kind of thing. Personally, I like it when a cast moves as one. There was a roughness that comes with a fresh new show on opening night, this show is going to roar with sumptuous pace by the end of the season, I am sure. I might yet come back for closing night, to see it full of weight.
Apocalypse. ‘A vision of heavenly secrets that can make sense of earthly realities*’, a disclosure, a revelation. When we use the phrase post-apocalyptic, we are talking about the time after the worst has come.
I am reminded of letters from lovers I keep in my dresser.
I am reminded that death is dry as dust.
I remember a time that I was sorry, and I remember a time I had my fill.
And of course, I am reminded that Shakespeare was, and is, entertainment for the heckling masses. Fill up the cheap seats and quaff plenty of wine. Chaos is coming, it takes us all in the end. So fill your cups, drink up, my friends.
Quote: Bart D. Ehrman, How Jesus Became God
The Hamlet Apocalypse is on at the Judith Wright Centre from Wed 9 – Sat 19 August 2017, 7.30pm. Tickets available here.
Image credit | Morgan Roberts
Presented by The Danger Ensemble and the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts
Director / Designer | Steven Mitchell Wright
Featuring | Chris Beckey, Caroline Dunphy, Nicole Harvey, Thomas Hutchins, Polly Sará, Peta Ward and Mitch Wood
Lighting Designer | Ben Hughes
Composer and Sound Designer | Dane Alexander
Designer | Oscar Clark