by William Shakespeare.
Mercury Theatre Balkerne Gate CO1 1PT To 2 October 2010.
Runs 3hr 30min One interval.
TICKETS: 01206 572948.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 29 September.
Action takes priority over soliloquising in briefly imported Hamlet.
How’s this for fair-trade: Colchester sends a 55-minute two-hander to Macedonia, and receives back a three-and-a-half hour Hamlet? Dejan Projkovski’s production for Ni Drama Theater Skopje (in Macedonian, with English surtitles) is a dark affair, its black-surrounded platform set dividing under-world from rulers. The opening scene’s soldiers become naked outcasts who ally themselves with the discontented prince, while Claudius doesn’t so much rule a court as chair a committee, seated at high, skeletal stools alongside the platform, on which Hamlet curls up asleep during their deliberations (and under which he lies, pistol pointed through the floor at Claudius’ head on “Now might I do it”).
Projkovski’s production proclaims itself about how to ‘Be’ in a world where global progress creates its own dispossessed. Denmark’s less a prison than a wasteland, spied-on from a glass-walled, sound-proofed room. Vehemently spoken lines early on emphasise the international strife with Fortinbras, setting the tone for a production where Claudius shoots his ambassadors and tortures an informer.
And where Deyan Lilich’s charismatically moody Hamlet joins the violence, burning Ofelia’s feet, forcing sand into the mouths of those he takes against. And where the brief dignity that opens the final duel descends into foul play, while the high authority that’s ordered Ofelia’s burial reveals itself with guns pointed at the reluctant clergy.
It’s a world where Polonius, in dark suit and glasses, is an apparatchik whether for the state or an interstate corporation, where Gertrude and Ofelia both get assaulted by their men, Gertrude with unpleasant marital rape from a drunk, pot-bellied, half-naked Claudius.
And where a heap of sand mixes with the books that lie around to form a mess across the stage as, in a final irony, corpses are bundled into skips labelled ‘Fortinbras’, amid traffic cones, the operation supervised by the actor playing the Ghost of Hamlet’s so-admired father.
There’s one interlude of calm. Projkovski takes the interval after Hamlet’s advice to the Players, which shows him calmly rational, as the other actors gather round and contribute to the advice. Special pleading from a stage, perhaps, but suggesting here alone might lie hope.
Hamlet: Deyan Lilich.
Ofelia: Viktoriya Stepanovska.
Claudius: Branko Gjorvec.
Gertrude: Katerina Kocevska.
Polonius: Dragan Spasov.
Horatio: Filip Traykovich.
Laertes: Igor Stoychevski.
Rosencrantz: Igor Angelov.
Guildenstern: Nikola Acevski.
Ghost of Hamlet’s Father: Laze Manaskovski.
Mauricio: Aleksandar Georgievski.
Barnardo: Igor Georgiev.
Francisco: Slobodan Trendafilov.
Director: Deyan Projkovski.
Designer: Vlado Gjoreski.
Music: Goran Traykovski.
Costume: Blagoy Micevski.