Edinburgh Fringe 2010
Hamlet as performed by a French teenager in his bedroom doesn’t sound a promising premise, but this is an ingenious and well-performed piece that really works and gives new and interesting insights into Hamlet.
“To be or not to be”, that is usually the question, but here “Etre ou ne pas être, telle est la question”. In Naxos Theatre & Les Tréteaux de la Pleine Lune brilliantly reconceived version of Hamlet, a teenager locks himself in his bedroom, alone against the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune”. His father has left and his mother has found a new partner too quickly afterwards for his son’s liking. In a desperate frenzy, as the voice of his mother calls him down to welcome his new stepfather from outside the bedroom door, inside the bedroom he proceeds to re-enact Hamlet taking on the characters one by one.
The ordinary things of the boy’s bedroom assume new life as props in his play. Two pillows play Gertrude and Claudius, a teddy is pulled into action as Horatio, a reconciliatory present from his stepfather of Lord of the Rings characters, Aragorn and Legolas are pressed into service as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Toy tanks roll across the floor into battle. Actually, this is genuinely imaginative puppet theatre.
In spite of the toy town take on the play, it never becomes derisory or ridiculous. Rather it becomes a play that has something to say about the modern break up and reconstituting of families and where children sit in that mix. The play acts as an adolescent display of angst that is transformative in its passage to a more mature understanding.
Throughout, Thomas Marceul’s performance is stunningly executed and sustained. He takes on an incredible array of characters and breathes life into them, speaking Shakespeare with authority. Thomas Marceul works so hard in his many roles that he is literally dripping with sweat by the end. A veritable tour-de-force of a performance.
Conceptually, there is a problem and suspension of disbelief doesn’t quite overcome it. Either this teenager is young enough to play with teddies and therefore not old enough to play around with Hamlet, or else he’s old enough for Hamlet and therefore too old for teddies. Perhaps this shouldn’t matter, but it left a strange disconnect that didn’t quite work for me.
A slight quibble – the surtitles are awkwardly placed, a fault probably imposed by the limitations of the venue rather than the company but irritating nonetheless. But more irritating by far are the sloppy and badly translated surtitles – it’s only the best known play in the world, the text is out there.
In spite of these minor criticisms, this is an ingenious and entertaining adaptation by Neil Grujic done justice by an incredible performance by the superb Thomas Marceul.