Hamlet (4 stars)

This article is from 2013


Enthralling reinterpretation of the classic text from the Wooster Group

In 1964 Richard Burton performed Hamlet on Broadway in a production directed by John Gielgud. It was recorded from 17 different camera angles and then broadcast to more than 2000 cinemas across the US, one of the first ‘cinecasts’ of its kind. New York’s radical theatre company the Wooster Group take this film as the basis of their reinterpretation of Shakespeare’s renowned play. They have re-edited it, removing pauses in some places and adding them in in others to create their own version, and it’s against this film that they perform, mimicking the jerks and movements of their celluloid counterparts.

The result is an enthralling exploration of the nature of theatre and film. The characters frequently reconfigure their positions on stage to re-enact the film behind them, sometimes pulling props into new arrangements to mimic a ‘close-up’. It may all sound like an academic exercise but the effect is to create a distinct world which Hamlet unfolds in, one which is often disorientating and displays an oddly futuristic edge.

This certainly isn’t Hamlet for newbies, or for that matter Shakespeare puritans (some scenes are even ‘fast-forwarded’). It is instead a captivating, utterly unique interpretation of the classic text for the 21st century. And the Wooster Group once again prove that they are streets ahead in exploring the very edges of theatre and technology.

Part of Edinburgh International Festival 2013. Run now ended.