Had Hamlet been this interesting when I had to study it at school for English literature, maybe, just maybe, I would have scored higher; maybe an A+ and not a B when I had to do my review.
When I joined notable faces from the island’s artistic community –– heraldist Anne Rudder, artist Alison Chapman-Andrews, former Barbados Community College principal Dr Norma Holder and her husband Jean Holder (chairman of LIAT) –– as they featured under the night sky in an audience that included members of the diplomatic corps, I did not even half-expect I would be in the least be caught up as I was with Hamlet as directed by Dominic Dromgoole, and played by the very Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.
They brought what at school I thought was a dull play to life –– a man innerly tormented as he comes to grips with treachery and deceit. Set in the Kingdom of Demark, the play tells how Prince Hamlet claims revenge on his uncle Claudius for the murder of the old king Hamlet, Claudius’ own brother and Prince Hamlet’s father.
With the king now dead, Claudius succeeds to the throne and marries Gertrude, King Hamlet’s widow and Hamlet’s mother.
The play chronicles the excruciatingly fatal course Prince Hamlet takes to avenge his father’s murder. It portrays tragedy as its principle theme with intense grief and fury pointing to subthemes of political conspiracy and moral corruption.
Globe is presently on a whirlwind tour, celebrating the 450 anniversary of William Shakespeare’s birth. It was a one-night only, September 11 performance. The aim is to take in every country in the world. Barbados was merely number 45 of 250.
At 7:30 p.m., in the Barbados Museum’s courtyard, the “curtain” went up on a rather simple set made up of the steamer trunks the Globe troupe uses for its travels –– the backdrop for the textured, audience-inclusive production.
Hamlet was played in this instance by Naeem Hayat, a slight man, whose stance suggested both vulnerability and a coiled, intense intellect. He was extremely convincing in his role, portraying a man who was suffering deep inner turmoil, biting at his fingers, exploding in fury, slamming his head with his hands as though trying to drive out his thoughts for just a few minutes of mental peace.
He’s also a very funny Hamlet; sometimes just a young guy goofing around with his friends, popping his head from behind a curtain to shout, “Boo!” At other times, he’s a man whose vision overleaps his years as when raising his arms to the open sky.
That said, though, the production forces you to work your imagination to picture some of the locations, starting early on the castle’s ramparts as we learn of the death of Hamlet’s father.
The story runs along at breakneck speed, stopping off briefly for scenes that are often witty. I particularly enjoyed the pace at which the show flowed. It was interesting that I sat for close to two hours moving only for the 15-minute intermission; only rushing to get back to my seat to make sure I didn’t miss a thing.
After watching this play, though, I only have one regret –– that is that many others did not see it, especially our secondary school students who might be now studying some book of Shakespeare’s.
Who knows, maybe when its tour is over in 2016, we will once again get to see Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre gracing the stage here in Bimshire again.
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