The Hamlet Apocalypse
The Danger Ensemble @ Arcade Lane – Regent Two
9:30pm,Wed 10 Mar 2010
The Hamlet Apocalypse was high on my list of things-to-see long before I discovered that Anniene was directing; after a brief chat with her about the style of the show, it was quickly slotted into The Schedule.
So we queue, and wait, and then ascend the stairs and are led into the gutted shell of one of the old Regent Theatres, raucous industrial music bouncing off the walls. We sit, and there’s bright spotlights in our faces. It’s hot, and hard to see.
Suddenly, the music stops and the lights shut off; in the silent darkness, all that can be seen are the red hangovers of the spotlights in my eyes. There’s a flicker, and a buzz, as some cold harsh fluoro lighting comes on, and we see the cast standing above the door we walked through… they’d been there all along, hidden behind the bright lights.
Cool. Massive props for a clever start.
“Ten” – the countdown starts in unison. The cast are playing out Hamlet in the knowledge that the world is coming to an end. It’s a heavily abridged version, of course, and as the apocalypse looms nearer – the countdown more frayed – the cast become edgy, dropping out of character to reflect on their own insignificance, to plead with each other, prior to their inevitable demise. Their personal distress feeds back into the play, as the cast – and their characters – turn on each other, devolving into a painful and desperate cross-pollenation of “real” and “imaginary”.
It’s loud, it’s angry, it’s confusing, it’s painful… and it’s beautiful.
There’s so much to like about this production; from a visual perspective, it’s almost like it was tailor-made to appeal to me. The sparse set and careful side lighting allow for massive sharp shadows to be projected on the rough side walls of the former cinema; if there’s one thing I love, it’s shadowplay, and The Hamlet Apocalypse delivers that in spades. And when the powder is dropped onto the ghost of Hamlet’s father… the harsh lighting picks up the powder, and the billowing around the stage is simply stunning.
It would be easy to say that The Hamlet Apocalypse fits in with this year’s apparent theme of meta-theatre… but, upon reflection, I think it’s more than that. It’s almost anti-theatre: a play-within-a-play, a space-with-a-found-space, taking the notion of all that’s obvious about the base material and forming something almost contrasting, rather than complementary, to the sources.
Blimey, that sounds like a load of wank. But you know what? I don’t care – The Hamlet Apocalypse was exciting theatre, genuinely fresh and bold. I loved it.