False Hamlet

What if Ophelia and Hamlet reunited in the afterlife? Liberated — eventually, from the conditionings of a narration whose demands are of them to wear the skin of tiny fragile creatures in a fate of folly (is it?) and death? Such a linear, almost ‘pink’, mind, as mine, has — in a very poorly hamletic fashion, no doubts whatsoever. That would be the ideal chance to live at last, as they please, an infantine, delicate love which had to be sacrificed on the altar of a tragedy. False Hamlet – Opera Teatrale in Fa maggiore director and playwright Andrea Cramarossa has a different idea, as in his version he imagines those post-mortem souls to confront each other again in a purgatorial dimension yet not for any presumed sin.

Nothing gets to transform anything into a happy ending, hélas, in the poetics of this production signed Teatro delle Bambole, since Hamlet/Ophelia/Hamlet/Ophelia, in a sequence of prolonged soliloqui, are not quite capable of becoming ‘one’, not at the price of reiterating the myth of their very personal ‘repetition’. Federico Gobbi comes in from behind the public, illuminating each and every one with one of those speleology headlights, therefore beginning an actual hermeneutical excavation, which is not only concretely blinding, but requires also a pause to the sight, in order to give priority to the hearing as a deep listening.

So much dense is the author’s penmanship as a poet, in fact, that one needs to darken one’s mind. There is very little, and very little happens, on the other hand, on stage. Perhaps a rehearsal room, or that ‘court tiny theatre’ set up to flush out the murderer, still suspended in duration at the moment of the disclosure itself. Together with this already double semantic dimension, Hamlet’s poetizing presence meeting Ophelia in the end, the talented Isabella Careccia, a string of videos with no audio inserts itself on the backcloth. Could they be memories — in the one danced attempt of spiritual ‘enhancement’ following Tiomnaja noch” (Into the Dark). Surely the truth behind the fiction of ‘theatre’.

This is what ‘False Hamlet’ is, the hyperbolic elevation of false-true, fictitious-real dialectics, in the land of the ‘symbol’ — yet discovered in a previous project by the ensemble from Bari while investigating the life of fireflies —, ending up turning those tiny fragile creatures into small willingless ‘wicks’, symbiotic in the other side as well. Such a hard work ‘to be true’ it is, that the director-playwright imagines them in a scrubbed field, dressed up as on stage, despite dog masks, disillusioned, and almost joyfully resigned to their scenic identity. Incommunicable, so much so, to end up speaking other idioms.

Reflecting in theatrical terms this is a performance more than it is a ‘tale’. For one entire week I have been pondering the nice ‘scene-pictures’, post-modern, kind of in a vintage way. Most of all, however, ruminating the script, as it unavoidably calls one back in, as a protraction of the cruel Scene I, Act III. Reflecting in poetical terms this is an ambitious, yet successful attempt of going beyond Shakespeare. The action on stage, though, still needs some more breathe, out of the philosophical roots of the poetic lines, into the flesh.

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A not-so-global ‘O’

‘London, was on the other side of the river’ —, this is what the tiny narrator-guide recounts in the course of the exhibition tour. No bridges to cover the distance, Bankside was a place to look at with both embarrassment, and desire. ‘Las Vegas style’, she says. That was the borough where to go to find a good pint, a whore, and, of course, a theatre. A flag fluttering on the roof meant that around 2pm there would have been something on stage.

A tweet, today, reminds me that at 2pm I will be attending As You Like It. At the Shakespeare’s Globe. Eventually. Must say it is not an easy task to carefully select the show to attend to. Not only because the billboard evermore presents little frequented elsewhere plots, but also for the absence of an ensemble per se, which is kind of disorienting. The latter to say that little consistency ends up to define the visit as a theatrical experience.

Definitely intense is the cultural experience. First, for the altogether touching, and quixotic idea of the American actor Sam Wanamaker, to build up a copy not too far away from the site of the original one, burnt down for a special effect cannon shot. Primarily, yet, for an idea of theatre, the one of that theatre, as a deep and alive conversation, — ‘philosophical’ being a dialogue, between actors and audience. A smelled human ’worldly circularity’.

It was not a matter of seeing, — except for the Devil’s Nest, where gentlemen had the chance to ‘swipe’ the fancy ladies, there searching for a zero endeavour livelihood. It was a matter of hearing the theatre. The main focus was on language, in a close physical, and eyes, proximity. The latter being what still lasts today, as the one and only element of continuity, one season after the other.

The current artistic director — Michelle Terry, ‘brands’ the 2018’s one around that concept of a ‘wooden ‘O’’ within which Shakespeare made it possible for the world to encounter worldly matters. All of them. Despite the atmospheric conditions, with or without pigeons (or helicopters), standing or seating. The director — Elle White, adheres wholly to the logic of one of the Shakespearean stories specifically thought for this set itself.

Unfortunately, the result is — as much as impeccable on a semantic level, a bit strenuous. There’s something in the practice of an obstinate ‘cross-genderality’ that endangers it to be dispossessed of its being mysteriously destabilising, and transformative. That is the case of Rosalind — the tall and slim Jack Laskey, and of Orlando — the petite Bettrys Jones. It simply does not fit.

Need to confess the ‘femininist’ inhabiting me might be here tampering, but Rosalind a man? Nope. Especially if ‘en travestie’ when already in disguise. It ends up confusing and ‘schizophrenising’ possibly the most interesting female character of the whole Shakesperean canon. She, who is the mouthpiece of an assertive sensibleness in the matters of love, which is the most radical topic inhabiting the land of imagination.

Encore, she, who consciously, and corageously, enters into the ‘green space’, — here a mysterious, and hardly to geographically locate forest, where wild animals, and occasional, glib, talkers live. She, who has to become a ‘man’ to tell men that to love is a matter of survival of the species. And ultimately she, who is capable of doing so, laboriously, and honourably, as a ‘woman’.

That is not the case (meaning: they do operate, out of fluidity, though), of Celia — the deaf actress Nadia Nadarajah, impeccably supporting her friend-sister, and neither of Touchstone — an extraordinary Colin Hurley, in his mise à la Falstaff complete with trumpet horn, and unforgettable timing, and luxuriating ‘in’ a Junoesque Audrey. Perhaps neither of a ‘hippie’ Jaques — the however excessively seraphic Pearce Quigley.

Long story short, the audience sniggers, a plastic pint in one hand. In the ‘global’ era, though, it seems to be a missed opportunity not to collect stories from the other side of the river, so to bring into the ‘globe’ something more, and more currently smelled human. That would give the audience a more Shakespearean chance to reflect, and be reflected. Entertainment does not seem to be enough. Not even in a semantic impeccable musical.

On the other hand, it is the policy of this establishment — that does not receive a penny from the government, to support the literacy of the ‘groundlings’ on the subject of the Bard. Sure, most of them are tourists. But it is magnificent. If you ever will have the chance to plan a visit, get off at Blackfriars, yes, but do not trust Google Maps. Get there across the Millenium Bridge, and you will gather an even more essential glimpse on the two worlds.

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