28 September 2009

The Hamlet Apocalypse

MELBOURNE FRINGE 2009
The Hamlet Apocalypse

The Danger Ensemble and Anniene Stockton
26 September 2009
La Mama Theatre


I don’t want to call favourites on the opening weekend of the Fringe, but The Hamlet Apocalypse proves that the experience of theatre can be something we can’t explain and something that defies mere words.

Six actors are spending the night before the end if their world rehearsing a play. There could be no other choice than that one with a play within the play, where everyone dies and that forces the cast to contemplate that they are soon not to be.

Under the taut direction of Steven Mitchell Wright, The Danger Ensemble (who have been gallivanting the globe with Amanda Palmer) have devised a telling of Hamlet that captures the soul of this greatest of great works and intertwines it with a story so personal and intense that I had to remind myself to breathe.

Developed using a disciplined mix of the Japanese Butho and Suzuki (Tadashi) techniques, this telling is about emotion and essence. Although we hear moments of Shakespeare’s perfect text (yes I love Hamlet), the words are almost meaningless, as the emotion and the heart of the story is expressed physically. I’ve seen many Hamlets, but this is the first time I’ve gasped at the finality of ‘To be or not to be’. These storytelling techniques let us feel the emotion of a story in our hearts before our brains catch up and think about the words. Shakespeare might well have abandoned words had there been a Butoh troupe in Stratford.

As the evening heads towards its climax, the line between their Denmark and their reality blurs and melds. Hamlet has to reject Ophelia, but Lloyd loves Tora; Polonius has lost a daughter, but Peta knows that she will never have children.

The six face their end together but alone and perhaps they hope that there is a Horatio in the audience to tell their tale and a Fortinbras to bear them away with honour.

The intimacy of La Mama intensifies experience of The Hamlet Apocalypse, so make the most of this season before this contemplative and shiny find is grabbed by festivals everywhere.

More 2009 Fringe reviews.

This review originally appeared on AussieTheatre.com.

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