27 October 2011

MIAF review: The Rehearsal, Playing the Dane

MIAF 2011
Pan Pan Theatre, APA, Melbourne Festival
18 October 2011
Merlyn Theatre, The Malthouse
to 22 October

Loving Hamlet, difficulties with language and dogs, The Rehearsal, Playing the Dane had me from Monash Uni's Sue Twegg's opening discussion about the instability of Shakespeare's language, accompanied by a very beautiful Great Dane.

However, if you don't know Hamlet – really know it, not just know that it's the Shakespeare one with the skull and "To be or not to be" – I have no idea if there's anything to connect to.

Ireland's Pan Pan Thearte perfectly describe it as "an irrelevant riff on Hamlet".  Reveling in its meta-ness, the first half has academia, a live pun and an audition process that lets the audience get out of their seats to choose their Prince of Denmark.

Like a favourite album, the second half plays the sing-along choruses and well-known singles with highlights performed by Pan Pan and local Drama students from Trinity Grammar School. And the dog comes back.  And a knowledge of Beckett lets you enjoy it even more.

With a Danish flag floor, Dane curtain and pillows, and silver garbage bins, its visual gorgeousness is easily mistaken for a sober symbolic design – if it didn't delight in its punny symbolism. The text too is treated with a fascinating mix of love and disdain, with moments of nerdy solemnity and audacious hilarity that were intriguing, if not engaging.

The emotional connection of the show is the understanding between the creators and the audience. We don't care for Hamlet and his family's sorid/solid/sallid tale, and don't care too much who gets cast, but we love them because we share the understanding of the play and the text and we get the jokes. Would Ophelia crawling out of a bin with garbage for remembrance be anything but odd without knowing the context?

This is theatre for theatre nerds and there's not much better than being in full theatre with the nerdiest.

This review first appeared on Aussietheatre.com

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