A ghost is a ghost is a ghost

The audio of a vintage trailer covers the chattering of the audience, whilst the ultra-technologic proscenium begins to enliven. A `nurse` stage-hand sets a micro-screen behind an actor who is rather `acting` as a presenter. Disorientating further are a Macbethian kilt and an iPad in his hand. Fast paced he conquers a stool, and places it in front of an anchored video camera directed onto the interior of the scene. He sits down and starts `presenting`, — together with his double, materialising in the screen behind him, the features of this uncommon `action` upon the most iconic Shakespearean character.

The impression is that this is just a preamble. Thus, one just starts to listen. `In 1964, — he expounds — Richard Burton had an experience that no other actor had never had before, the chance to see himself perform on a Broadway stage through a process called `Theatrofilm` with `Electronovision` `. What that is, — he admits, a little embarrassed — he has no clue. Then he proceeds: `I am no scientist`, but `I have seen the film, and I can only say it seems to be like a very well produced film, as one would have normally seen it in the theatre` — he self-corrects, `in the cinema, except that this was shot in the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre with an actual audience`.

It is just after some research one finds out that Scott Shepherd — a formidable voice print, is actually already doing his job with an on stage `calque` of the opening trailer. Therefore, we are already into The Wooster Group production of Hamlet. The mobile device is used to communicate with a further mega-video with the function of scenery flat, upon which, together with technical staff — overstepping the fourth wall, without fracturing it, he starts projecting the acclaimed production directed by Sir John Gielgud, starring Hollywood icons like the Hitchcockian Hume Cronyn. A multiplication of Deleuzian `folds`, disclosing a not only scenic depth.

He proceeds stating that this `film` was shown simultaneously in something like 2000 movie theaters across the United States on September 23 and 24 that same year, aiming at never been shown again. `Never until now`. The avant-garde work of the New York based group is not new to the integration of performance and video, and the one on Hamlet gathers in itself a multiplicity of peculiar notes, definitely beginning with the notion of `ghost`. The editing of the miraculous original — in the early 1960s `projecting`, literally, into the future, plays around the `spirit` of Hamlet, and all of its representations.

TWG's_HAMLET_001__photo_by_Paula_Court

© Paula Court

The intention, `with our Hamlet`, one can read in the program notes of a piece born in 2005 at the Performing Garage located in Wooster Street, SoHo, and from then on touring around up to the 2013 Edimburgh Festival, whose video, — further `fold`, is now accessible on Kanopy, is to reverse that process, reconstructing it. A `reversed-Theatrofilm` — public laughs, where Burton is there but he is not, just like a ghost, and Shepherd plays with this ghost, compensating his absences, as well as the other actors of the ensemble directed by Elizabeth LeCompte, founder, in 1967, together with Richard Schechner, of what was, at the beginning, the Performance Group.

A specific quote from Grotowsky in the program signals to what kind of theatre this specific fragment in the history of performative arts belongs to, `I am in the process of speaking with my ancestors. And, of course, I am not in agreement with my ancestors. But at the same time, I can’t deny them. They are my base; they are my source. It’s a personal affair between them and me.` And those ancestors’ steps, and voices, the actors reproduce as in a `chorus-collage`, channelling their founding past — right as in a `spiritualism` practice, by means of in-ear receivers, and mobile scenic props minimalising further the already `poor` original staging: a rectangular table and a small throne-armchair.

An Elsinore Castle reduced then to its atrium: a high backcloth-flat, a diagonal wooden structure made of a series of four rungs and a flight with banister, the allusion to an armoury, and the ghost of the father in the shape of an unmistakably Gielgudian shadow-projection… Now proposed again in a smaller, neutral version, halfway between a movie set and a rehearsal room, in order to make space for the bodies and their visibility. All the cuts, and the technical issues — `unrendered`, while apparently real, are actually part of a revived script, and likewise conceived to make the `new actors` visible, a generation honouring its predecessors.

That is how, in order to paint of `present` the topical moments of the tragedy, not only two cameo-songs come, composed especially by Fischerspooner for this production, almost a `concert-into-the-performance` paying homage to the Ophelia-Laertes relationship — Casey Spooner being part of the cast, and playing, among other characters, Laertes himself, but also the `technicolor` and voice distortion for the troupe setting up the `mouse trap`, and again some `pirate-fragments` inserted in the Burtonian template, surgically cut out from Zeffirelli, Almereyda, Branagh movies. Tribute accomplished.

TWG's_HAMLET_002__photo_by_Paula_Court

© Paula Court

Amleto take away

The ‘stage keeper’ asks the audience if they are ready. ‘Yes?’ ‘Good. Let’s start.’

Out of the dark a small set of red curtains gives frame to a crucified-like young man in a white monastic shirt.

‘I do suffer, though I dream
Because of this, I do live.
In the act of dreaming,
I do dive into ‘what I have inside’
That I see, even if it does not really live;
That I loose, if the day after, it turns into real.
Also, I do search for ‘who I am’,
‘who I fake to be’, ‘where I hide’,
In the act of dreaming, I do soothe the pain,
It is the only real sensation.
Life, in the end, is what, — in it, we do imagine:’

The ‘little scene in the scene’ moves towards the centre of the stage as the monologue proceeds, while an accordion, or a pianola, leads the pregnant words introducing Amleto Take Away whose meaning does not echo ‘a Shakespearean meal to have at home’, but rather the question: ‘What do you want Hamlet?’ in the Bari parlance: Amleto-te-ce-uè?

Nothing more than what we feel, we have,
And this is where the reality of our living
Lies upon, not on what we see.
‘I do suffer, dream, feel, and I am alive, different each day.
This, is what is worth to be or to have,
so that we can be, and have, what we ‘imperfectly’ are.
Ah! If this too, too sullied flesh would melt …

Gianfranco Berardi — winner with this work of the Premio Ubu 2018 as best actor, literally lives his life in blindness, — hanging in the balance between light and shadow, and brings about this project with Gabriella Casolari, and her outstanding penmanship, as a manifesto of a ‘time which is actually out of joint’.

I am squashed, blinded,
Like a moth I do meander from a glass to another,
In the permanent quest of a fulfilling something
That some heat could give me,
In this dazzling world,
full of sparkling wonders,
where every single thing is upside down,
capsized.

In a rising rhythm, the monologue turns into a shout, almost a yell, against an unbearable here and now, as if the ‘micro-theater-in-the-theater’ released his hostage. Master of elocution, athletic, authentic word-machine, he bears the cross-micro-set on his shoulder as a modern hero.

The mood changes into the description of a world which is actually in a state of disorientation everywhere, no latitude excluded. Sadness, and despair, still resonating in the soul of the public, are to greet a new, old, story in the key of a tragicomic fresco of the ‘counter-entness’ we all live in.

There’s a Father and a Son and the broken Dream of a Life as an Actor because of a rare Disease.

Shakespeare’s Hamlet, emblem of doubtfulness and hesitation, discomfort and inadequacy, has seemed to be to the duo-company the ideal character to entrust the leading baton of such a punctual query. This one Hamlet, though, favours a conscious failure more, rather than a shallow give away.

«To be or FB?» is his question. Sexting champion, and a fake winner of an old gone soccer championship wearing #9 on a blue and black shirt, this one Hamlet repudiates appearances in order to find himself as he really is, and his Ophelia, in a cameo of acting mastery — voice over voice, and dramaturgic talent.

The destiny of a codependent couple besieged into this economy. A real treat.

And then, all of a sudden,
All of a sudden the wining body.
We are alone, we are alone.
We are accomplices, though alone.
We are lovers, though alone.
We are brothers, though alone.
Alone, alone to face this journey.

Lost love makes indeed us stronger, but it leaves scars in our brain, and heart. Lightness, clearness, beauty, spontaneity, all is gone, and with fear only we do live, scared of collapsing at any moment. Lost love leaves behind an eroding dust that gets tears despite reasoned reasoning, wisdom, and lucidity.

It’s a sorcery, we are all victims of (…)
The sorcery must not be pandered.
It needs to be fought, or it will eat all of our dreams. (…)
Remember … My love … Always.

Nothing more, and more dignifying can be done, for a penitent, conscious mind, than a deadly wedding with poisonous flowers, and intentionally choose to get back into the small set of red curtains, and die.

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