Necessary Angel’s Hamlet
Starring Benedict Campbell, Laura de Carteret, Mac Fyfe, Steven McCarthy, Christopher Morris, Tara Nicodemo, Robert Persichini, Eric Peterson, with Gord Rand as Hamlet
Runs November 19-29 @ Enwave Theatre, Harbourfront
By Daina Valiulis
A raucious party has just occurred, yet in the air hangs the unmistakable sense of melancholy. A large banquet table sits in the middle of the room. Strewn atop it are plates smeared with leftover food, empty plastic cups and cans that crunch underfoot as the action progresses, wrinkled streamers, and empty wine bottles. From the rafters hang dim chandeliers and in a dark corner sits a dishevelled young man with a mop of black hair. His eyes staring, haunted and fixed at the floor. The audience enters into this half masticated world, which becomes further ensnarled as the show progresses, and we become accomplices in the destruction and violence.
Superbly constructed from every avenue — set, lighting, sound design as well as incredible direction and acting to back it up — this version of Hamlet, directed and designed by Graham McLaren, removes giant chunks of the Bard’s text, but keeps all the juicy, necessary bits, which not only tells the story, but leaves you haunted and disgusted with the human monsters on parade. Each is guilty in some way (with the exception of Laertes, played by Christopher Morris, and Ophelia, played by Tara Nicodemo, who are treated as pawns) and they know it, whether they choose to hide it, deny it, or use it to manipulate others. It is this among other things that tortures Hamlet, causing him to drag everyone he touches into his festering pit of despair.
Particularly memorable motifs were the King (Benedict Campbell) and Queen (Laura De Carteret) dressed as an ape and the glamorous Fay Wray romping around the stage in flushed sexual excitement in a game of cat-and-mouse (much to the outrage and disgust of Hamlet), externalizing Claudius’ brutal animalistic tendencies and Gertrude’s willingness to play the naive damsel in distress. Kudos to Laura De Carteret who must endure violent physical force from the males throughout the show night after night and Simon Fon, the fight choreographer who masterminds the whole piece beautifully.
Another striking and skin-crawling motif was Polonius (Eric Peterson of Corner Gas) stripping the panties off Ophelia, sniffing and examining them to make sure she is still his chaste little girl. It was offensive and disgusting in a deliciously appropriate way and spoke volumes about Polonius as a father, and encapsulated their relationship in a moment.
To tackle the oft-revised Shakespeare with a new treatment takes guts, Hamlet in particular because it is done so often, and it takes something even more to make it stand out from the other versions. Necessary Angel’s Hamlet is a layered feast of violence, destruction, resounding grief, and — despite the horror — deep humanity.