A contemporary adaptation to Hamlet performed in an open air lawn

By Manju Mittal

This summer I attended an outdoor ”˜Thin Air productions’ live theatre play Shakespeare’s Hamlet, for the first time in an open air lawns since lockdown.  A unique theatrical presentation by local talented artists performed at the stunning venue Mahratta’s Moon Gate Courtyard, Wahroonga, School of Philosophy last weekend.  This commercially successful Shakespeare’s play ”˜Hamlet’ has been helmed by director Paul Kininmonth and produced by Veinita Wodrow.

”˜Hamlet’ ”“ a revenge tragedy written by William Shakespeare about a prince of Denmark taking revenge on his uncle on killing his father and marrying the mother of the prince and wife of the deceased king. The whole story revolves around the revenge of the prince. In short it is a classical tale of betrayal, murder and revenge. Hamlet is one of Shakespeare’s finest and longest plays where greed, ambition, madness and coincidence are all interwoven

Today Shakespeare is one of the most admired writers in India. His plays have been widely adapted both on stage and on screen, of all the dramas of Shakespeare, Hamlet is the most popular in India. Hamlet was an amazing novel; I must confess I had not read Hamlet since my senior years in high school. My first Shakespeare experience was in 80’s ”˜Romeo Juliet’ staged in my hometown.

The play deals with the struggles and tribulation of Hamlet, the prince of Denmark and the son of deceased king. One cold night when he returns to the palace he finds out that his father, the king is killed and his uncle, the king’s brother and present successor of the throne, Claudius has married Hamlet’s mother.

Seeing Hamlet performed here among the trees, shrubs and sound of birds surrounding the audience became part of the set, as does any available space within the audience, people watching leisurely sitting on blankets or chairs all over the grounds. The overall performance was bracing and fast paced, clearly delivered, flawlessly timed, and dynamically played. The plot twists are incredible. I must mention the sound quality was exceptionally good, the sound effect and the dialogue delivery by the young artists were appreciable.

Mostly the play dealt with the story of Ophelia and the circumstances, the situation created by her presence in Hamlet’s life. The inclusiveness was quite successful, especially with the character of Ophelia. She was utterly delightful as a young wanton wench.

Referring to the play, director Paul Kininmonth, says, “We are doing a contemporary staging of the play because, today, our gut impulse is still for revenge, for conquest. We are still choosing to go it alone, putting self interest before the good of the whole living unsustainably rather than sharing the middle way selling our planet and our humanity for quick gain”.

He adds, “I feel great, I consider myself fortunate directing this play and overwhelmed by the response.”

I caught up with Taufeeq Ahmed Sheikh after the play when he said, “I feel privileged and truly honoured to be part of this amazing production.” Taufeeq passionately believes that the audience is another character in the play, “During our daily rehearsals, the ensemble actors and their support team felt the same of their performance and their relationships with one another”.  

It’s a modern take on the play related to the current society. Emphasis was minimal on the sets and costumes, moreover Hamlet was defined as the prince from the dark ages and so his costumes were casual, further, just the set symbolic accompanied by  soulful music, roof, pillars and great outdoor setting added more depth to the presentation.

The play summed the theme very well, the dialogues more as creative interaction between performers, remarkably as I left the venue, I felt strangely uplifted, which seemed an odd response to such an abysmal tragedy penned centuries ago by Shakespeare where the main characters lie dead, strewn about the stage at the play’s end, left a deep, deep impression.

Your only chance to get to see this beautiful play will be on this coming Valentine weekend Saturday and Sunday 13-14 February in Sydney http://practicalphilosophy.org.au/course/hamlet-2021t1/

Also it is being performed at Scotland island:

Scotland Island : Ferry via Newport 20th Feb http://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/hamlet-tickets-139357214179

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