To all appearances, the Wooster Group’s Hamlet evades the burden of critical interpretation by reconstructing John Gielgud’s 1964 memorial production starring film celebrity, Richard Burton, as mediated through Bill Colleran’s filmic record of it. Upon closer inspection, though, director Elizabeth LeCompte stages the dynamic between the archive and the repertoire to foreground the problematic performance of compulsive mourning, an issue exacerbated by the digital media relied on in the 1964 production’s intermedial reconstruction. For all its humor, the Wooster Group’s Hamlet brings home, with a vengeance, the idea that any attempt at working through traumatic losses by remediating them inevitably is suffused by the paradoxical logic of reproduction that forces us endlessly to repeat the painful resuscitation of specters, private and cultural, domestic and foreign: Shakespeare’s son; sorely missed Wooster Group members; the deceased philosopher, Jacques Derrida; the democratizing challenges to Shakespeare’s canonical status; and the fear of communism in the capitalist US and in the patriarchal International Labor Federation’s feminist shadow. The Wooster Group’s reenactment thus rejoins Andy Warhol’s mechanically reproduced memorial silkscreens of Liz Taylor, whose presence equally haunts Kathe Burkhart’s Liz Taylor Series—two visualarts “libraries” that perform a counter-memory to the Wooster Group’s Hamlet and supplement the promotional imagery on the company’s web site, in the program for the production’s preview, and in Richard Prince’s publicity card for the New York Public Theater’s opening.


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pp. 539-561
Launched on MUSE
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