Words, words, words...although not as many as you'd think. Hot
- by William Shakespeare
- Etcetera Theatre
- August 5-10, 2007
Unlike, most performances of Hamlet I have seen, this is more a comedy than a tragedy—intentionally so, I am happy to say. Also unlike most Hamlet productions, this is surprisingly brief—in just over 25 minutes, Get Over It Productions manages to pack in a musical dance as a preface to the play, and a 60-second encore, which whizzes through the entire performance all over again. Although the opening dance sequence is justly intended as a modern interpretation of the Renaissance tradition of beginning a play with song and dance, the execution sadly spoils these good intentions. The dance, which seems ill-prepared, is an unjust introduction for the genuinely original material that follows. The musical interjections are simple but surprisingly effective. Similarly, the staging and costume design maintains the raw essence of this production—the location itself (a first-floor room above a pub on Camden High Street) also encompasses a feeling that this theatrical experience is to be something new and exciting.
Nearly every member of the all-female cast is dressed in plain, pale, but particularly striking clothing—each wearing a corset, and some with brightly coloured underwear on top of skin-tight white layers. I suspect this costume design is laid heavy with subtext and double meaning—perhaps a physical depiction of the sexual theme that is a central element of the play; perhaps a feminist stance against the weak portrayal of women that pervades Hamlet. However, when I noticed that each actor had a luggage label attached to their waist with writing on (for example, Ophelia’s read ‘Chip Butty’), I decided that there is much more importance in this lightning-quick performance to focus upon than the over-consciously symbolic costumes. This is a performance that certainly improves as time goes on. By the time the comically obligatory encore takes place, the audience is undeniably drawn in. Although this obviously harshly-edited script seems to be moulded around a skeleton of the many famous lines from the original play, it would probably be fair to say that an audience member would need at least a basic knowledge of the play to get the most out of this short performance.
Most amusing of all, in my eyes, is that whilst trying to fit at least three-and-a-half hours of Shakespeare’s words into just half an hour, this troupe still finds time to fit in a whole minute of mimicry, illustrating Hamlet’s boat trip overseas. Perhaps they've found that once you’ve cut all of Hamlet’s procrastination out, there’s really not that much left to say. Despite the loss of most of the original material, a cohesive and entertaining performance emerges. But watch out: blink and you’ll miss it!
Get Over it, Hamlet is a production by Get Over It Productions.
This performance is part of the Camden Fringe Festival, which runs until the 26th August 2007. www.camdenfringe.org
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