“Hamlet” means chaos

6 Sep

What’s going on with Hamlet? He’s like everywhere now. “It’s a plentiful hamlet season”, said professor Jerzy Limon at the opening of the Festival. Right, it was and it is Hamlet’s season, first the Polish Hamlets Convention in April, then as many as six different productions of Shakespeare’s most popular play during the Gdansk Shakespeare Festival. And here’s the thing; “Hamlet” is the most popular of Shakespeare’s plays, to many it might even be the best one. On stage, it was done in literally every possible way, now almost every motif seems to be trite. So in such a situation, you can let your imagination go wild, put a variety of trends into one show. Seems a bit risky, though, and as far as “Hamlet” is concerned, the more (effects) isn’t necessarily the better.
The Macedonian staging of Hamlet directed by Dejan Projkovski from the Drama Theatre Skopje kept reminding me of other productions that I’d seen before. This does not mean that the performance was dull and uninteresting, quite the contrary: even though sometimes I’d feel like being in the middle of some artistic chaos and confusion, the show was undoubtedly a treat for the eyes. It would fill the spectators’ minds with beautiful, unforgettable images. To me, there were quite a lot of such wonderful moments, yet two of them made quite an impression on me: Hamlet throwing handfuls of sand at books that he’d put in a circle around him, and Ophelia squatting on Hamlet’s hip with a feather-like subtelty.
Yet sometimes all these beautiful images would not make any sense when joined in one picture in my mind, sometimes some elements would simply not fit in. The opening scene – four naked guards jumping like apes around a metal scaffolding – immediately made me think of post-apocalyptic atmosphere. “Ok, it may be tough, but intersting”, I thought. But then the story-line ‘flipped a U-turn’ and everything changed. Leartes, Claudius, Polonius, Gertrude and Ophelia appeared on stage, all dressed in black, but the clothes and sunglasses they were wearing would make them look more like mafia than like mourners. The performance seemed like a jugglery of too many different trends. The post-apocalyptic tinge quickly changed into a Matrix-like atmosphere, and then the show reached the heights of absurd when the ghost of the King gave Hamlet a sword and then took it back just to use it to make a sandwich.
The stage design was rather impressive, but the ‘aquariums’ where separate scenes would be played (which probably were meant to be something new), reminded me of this year’s production by Dreamthinkspeak company – “The Rest Is Silence”. Projkovski’s “Hamlet” would at times to quite a large extent resemble other productions of Shakespeare’s most popular play, but Deyan Lilich as Hamlet and Viktorija Stepanovska as Ophelia were pretty successful in diverting the audience’s attention from all the drawbacks of the show. There was some kind of ‘chamistry’ between them, their relationship, being so toxic and crazy, made me unable to keep my eyes off of them. Deyan and Viktorija were just outstanding, but, unfortunately, they’d outshine a little the other actors who would at times fade into the background. There’s no one unanimous opinion concerning Projkovski’s “Hamlet”. Some fell in love, some were not convinced byt the story. And as chaotic as this show would seem, it might have actually made sense, since, and here let me quote the great Bard: “Though this be madness, yet there is method in it”, in the end it was that artistic chaos that made the spectators’ leave the theatre with plenty of wonderful images crossing their minds.

pictures: Greg Goodale

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One Response to ““Hamlet” means chaos”

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  1. My Hamlet means everything to me | Shake it, Shakey! - September 7, 2012

    […] an interview with Viktorija Stepanovska who played Ophelia in Dejan Projkovski’s Hamlet […]

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