Hamlet (Wooster Group)

EIF THEATRE

HAMLET
4 stars ****
Royal Lyceum Theatre

FOUR DAYS into the 2013 International Festival, its key theme of art and technology is playing out in impressive style; and at the Royal Lyceum, technology appears centre-stage, as the acclaimed Wooster Group of New York seek to re-enact in live theatre a magnificent performance of Hamlet given on Broadway in 1964, starring Richard Burton, which was filmed for a brief showing in selected US cinemas, and which appears on a flickering screen at the back of the stage.

What emerges, though, is not so much an investigation of the relationship between live theatre and film, as a strange, fractious and oddly poignant account of how actors tackling classic texts are haunted by past glories, and by the tradition into which they enter. Scott Shepherd’s powerful Hamlet has nothing like the charisma and beauty of Burton’s image and voice on the screen, which appears only in glimpses, like a brooding ghost; the Wooster Group acting style is dry, ironic, neo-Brechtian. The interaction between the two, though, is fascinating; and in Elizabeth LeCompte’s production, Shepherd is brilliantly supported by the rest of the eight-strong company, in a production that offers up the story of Hamlet almost intact, but in a context that forces us to think, and think again, about the complex evolution of a theatrical tradition.

Joyce McMillan
Until 13 August
EIF p. 22.

ENDS

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