HAMLET THE CLOWN PRINCE
written and devised by Company Theatre.
Hackney Empire 291 Mare Street E8 1EJ 23-26 March 2011.
7.30pm Mat Wed, Thu, Sat 2.30pm.
Runs 1hr 45min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 8985 2424.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 16 March at Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry.
Clowns abound as Hamlet gets a makeover.
It’s quite ironic, given how many times there’s talk of clowns wanting to play Hamlet, that the decision to do the Dane in this Mumbai-based piece is made when lead clown Bobo (he certainly regards himself as that) is absent. There again, a performer who turns up ten minutes after the show’s started might be just the one to play theatre’s greatest delayer – and as the others say, ceding him the part, no-one’s more expert at talking a lot and doing nothing.
This is, anyway, Hamlet – or Soso – or Atul Kumar’s theatre company – or Company Theatre. And though the clowns bring plenty of fun to telling Hamlet’s story, they recognise a dark side – as does Asmit Satish Patare’s lighting on a bare stage, bedecked occasionally with some insubstantial hangings. The mood swings between hilarity and sadness, as if the clowns can’t help being funny, nor avoid the serious truths in their story.
Theatre and clownage come together too in the manner of telling, veering between straightforward enactment (allowing for delivery in English and gibberish which to my ears could sound suspiciously like French), the performers arguing among themselves over Hamlet and other matters, and sections with performers calling on the audience to support their arguments.
So it could as well be Kumar’s Soso who’s off at the side sulking, as his Hamlet. And a comment about Hamlet liking his mother maybe a bit too much could register as an awareness of Hamlet criticism or an innocent comment from someone surveying the play for the first time.
A clownish comment, quite early on, that Ophelia might learn to swim better is funny but also reflects how the everyday can question the great experiences of culture (the mundane in the Dane). Yet the gamine Ophelia, white-faced clown as she is with all the others, comes movingly into focus for her scenes.
Musically, there’s a surprising amount of heftily serious backing, while the sudden loud track intruding on the final blackout at “The rest is silence” is the last trick played in Rajat Kapoor’s ever-inventive, highly funny and strangely moving production.
Soso/Hamlet: Atul Kumar.
Fifi/Ophelia: Kalki Koechlin/Rachel D’Souza.
Buzo/Gertrude: Puja Sarup.
Fido/Claudius: Neil Bhoopalam.
Nemo/ Horatius/Polonius: Namit Das.
Popo/Laertes: Sujay Saple.
Director: Rajat Kapoor.
Lighting: Asmit Satish Pathare.
Sound: Sumit Kohli.
Costume: Tanya Ghaavri.