Time Out recently
witnessed the suicidal courage of Bell Shakespeare's Players first-hand,
performing Romeo & Juliet for
almost 800 high school students. It was an enjoyable production made much less
enjoyable by the chatter, inappropriate laughter and occasional heckling of the
The STC Ed production of Hamlet - also playing to high school audiences - probably won't have the same problems. For a start,
the Wharf 2 Theatre is a much more appropriate venue - with none of the school
assembly/Rock Eisteddfod vibe of the Seymour Centre's cavernous York Theatre.
And, while Romeo & Juliet resorted
to tomfoolery and dirty innuendo to keep the little buggers happy for
intermittent bursts, Hamlet wisely
refrains from talking down to its audience.
This is Hamlet boiled
down to its very essence, intelligently adapted and directed by Naomi Edwards
for, yes, a female Hamlet. Sophie Ross gives a vulnerable, captivating take on the
Danish prince(ss) - all the more impressive considering she stepped up to fill
the metaphorical crown only two weeks before opening night.
This Hamlet is a breath
of fresh Danish air. A brisk, scintillating and wonderfully alive production that ought
to be enjoyed by theatregoers of all ages - whether or not you have to sit a test on it afterwards. Darryn King
Aimed at Year 7 to Year 12 students, Naomi Edwards's adaptation of Shakespeare's great tragedy has one surprising twist: now the Danish prince is actually a princess. This time around, it's Sydney Theatre Company Resident Sophie Ross who'll be holding Yorick's skull aloft in the big role. "Hamlet is a universal story," says Edwards. "Those questions: how do you live, upon what do you base your actions, how do you integrate your philosophy with what you have to do? - that isn't a male story.
"I see it all the time in the students that I work with: girls who are incredibly capable and incredibly intelligent thrown into the world and not able to operate as well as perhaps they thought they would. That's one of the things that I want to explore with this."
Edwards says that students already have access to integral male interpretations of the Hamlet role - Kenneth Branagh and Mel Gibson to name just two - otherwise she would have been less likely to make this casting choice. "I felt like I could contribute to the conversation," she says. "It felt like it would have been a missed opportunity if we cast him as male.
"I've spent a lot of time wondering, was it because I'm a female director? Is it a huge feminist statement? But it doesn't feel like that. It doesn't feel like that angry redress of that balance. It comes out of the realisation that this belongs to both genders - and hopefully that's what the production will say."
The casting choice is an opportunity to breathe something new into Hamlet - "We've all got the echoes and remanence of what's been done before," Edwards says - while staying true to the themes of the play. "The same ideas are still in there. We have to make this essentially Hamlet and tap into all of those deep things in order to make the statement work. That's what I'm hoping that we're able to do: create an archetypal Hamlet." Darryn King