Hamlet | Collage

based on the play by William Shakespeare
in a translation by Boris Pasternak and Mikhail Lozinsky
adapted by Robert Lepage
Theatre of Nations
Singapore International Festival of Arts 2016: Potentialities
Drama Centre Theatre, Singapore

One could perhaps be forgiven for expecting something abstract from this production. After all, it's helmed by inventive French-Canadian director Robert Lepage. Yet Hamlet | Collage, presented as part of this year's Singapore International Festival of Arts, proves to be a fairly faithful version of Shakespeare's great tragedy.

The key difference is that the entire play is performed by one person - acclaimed Russian theatre and film actor Evegeny Mironov. He takes on all the principal roles in the text and performs on a constantly rotating, open-faced cube with an assortment of concealed doors and compartments. A team of thirteen people, working behind the scenes, are required to achieve this feat. 

Photo Credit: Sergey Petrov

Lepage and his creative team fuse music, film and lights to create  a constantly engaging theatrical spectacle, aided by video projections that transform the bare walls of the cube into a multitude of settings. The impressive multimedia work plays out like a three- dimensional kaleidoscope. Slight adjustments to the text and the Cold War-era setting also give the production the feel of a spy thriller. One is constantly left guessing as to what will happen next. 

The production is littered with memorable scenes. During the climactic play-within-a-play, Evegeny moves along a bench, deftly portraying the expressions of all the characters watching the troupe of players. The fencing match between Hamlet and Laertes sees the men fighting against video projections of each other like a life-sized computer game. In one of the production's most arresting images, the drowning Ophelia melts into a blue cloth and disappears into a hole in the ground. As the cube rotates, we see her body suspended below the 'water', shimmering and ethereal.

The downside to all this visual splendour is that the character of Hamlet seems to be drowned out. One is so drawn to Evegeny's highly physical, chameleon-like transformations into each character - be it demure Ophelia, pot-bellied, blustery Polonius, regal Claudius or campy Osric - that one ends up losing interest in the Danish prince himself. 

Photo Credit: Sergey Petrov

There is a clear suggestion that this Hamlet is a man imprisoned by his thoughts. The play begins and ends with the image of a weary, straitjacketed Hamlet slumped on the floor and the events of the play seem to be the product of an overwrought mind. There is something quite moving about this version of Hamlet as the sad, solitary outsider, boxed in (quite literally) by a world he is unable to comprehend. However, the sheer variety in the performances and relentlessly inventive staging robs the play of its emotional thrust. 

With a run time of 145 minutes, the production is shorter than most versions of the play. Yet, the action tends to drag due to the constant bombardment of images. The swathes of English surtitles (largely based on the original text) also prove tiring on the eyes and one cannot help growing restless as the play ploughs on without an intermission. 

Ultimately, one cannot deny that Lepage's Hamlet | Collage is a visual tour de force and it boasts a truly captivating performance by Evegeny that is guaranteed to enthrall. A powerful marriage of theatre, technology and technical finesse, this is a Hamlet that is both one man and all men.

The Crystalwords score: 3.5/5


Popular Posts