- Hamlet_director's cutby Terre des Hommes, and: Prince Hamletby Why Not Theatre
Over the past few years, Canadians have been afforded an unprecedented opportunity to see a diverse number of adaptations and textually faithful productions of Hamlet. From Bard on the Beach in Vancouver (2013) to the Stratford Festival in Ontario (2015) to Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan in Saskatoon (2018), Hamlethas resurfaced as a popular draw for performers and audiences from coast to coast. Canadians seem genuinely interested in remounting this classic tragedy in ways conducive to reimagining our relationship to Shakespeare, as both a playwright and a cultural force. Through diverse casting, reconfigured scene order, or even complete departure from the known script, Hamlethas aided consideration of "what dreams may come." For example, a recent production by Below the Salt at Halifax's Neptune Theatre (2019) had six actors emerge as the dining room staff of an Edwardian manor house, offering the audience a performance of Hamletas we waited for our hosts to arrive. Standing on a long dining room table armed with umbrellas, this largely female cast performed a version of Shakespeare's play using only whatever was present in their fictional dining space. Watching three different women play Ophelia alongside Jackie Torrens as Hamlet provided a refreshing take on feminized masculinity in the play, especially for those few audience members—such as myself—who purchased a seat onstage at the Edwardian dining table for the entire show. [End Page 455]
This review will focus on two unique adaptations of Hamletthat have contributed to a wave of innovation amongst Canadian artists and performers using language, technology, and performance in unexpected ways. Both shows recently appeared at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa after successful initial runs in Toronto and Montréal last year. What remains so interesting and unique about both productions is their distinct interest in rethinking Hamletrather than staging it in a typical or safe manner. Canadian festivals, like all those previously mentioned, tend to offer productions of Hamletfeaturing relatively full text performance with conventional casting. Neither of the two featured in this review maintained any of these Canadian expectations, opting instead for solo casting or complete cultural and gendered reassignment of roles. The Stratford Festival in Ontario claims to provide authentic Shakespearean experiences, which usually means that productions use formulaic acting, directing, and design rather than new encounters with Shakespeare in radical or profound ways. Even Robert Lepage's Coriolanus(2018), which was heavily promoted as Stratford's technologically enhanced vision of modern Shakespeare, provided little for audience that had not been seen already in Lepage's previous non-Shakespearean shows. The two Hamletsat the National Arts Centre offered a more radical take on what Canadian Shakespeare might look and sound like.
Hamlet_director's cutby Marc Beaupré and François Blouin brought onstage a single actor who enacted scenes from Shakespeare's Hamletby embodying all characters in those moments at the same time. Through the use of a large scrim at the front of the stage and diverse motion and sound tracking devices, Beaupré recorded himself moving and speaking (in French) as Claudius, Gertrude, King Hamlet, Ophelia, and more...