I have never been a fan of Shakespeare.  I can appreciate the theatrical and historical value of his work, but I have always found Shakespearean to be a entire different language that is very hard to comprehend (at least in English).  So when I was invited to go see Hamlet at Havana I prepared myself to sit there for three hours trying very hard not to fall asleep. But boy, was I wrong!

It’s amazing what happens when a group of talented people put on a show together! In previous experiences as an audience member, I have witnessed actors focus so much on a fixed idea of how they think Shakespearean dialogue should be delivered that they forget to think about what they are actually saying, and the actual meaning of the words gets lost. In this version the actors delivered the dialogue in a more conversational style, and as a result it became much more accessible and understandable. You could actually see that they were enjoying themselves and having fun with it, successfully finding and sharing the wit and humour in this tragic, depressing play – which also aided understanding.

The Havana theatre is a small space, made to seem even smaller by designer Jennifer Stewart’s decision to surround the room with white fabric. It almost seemed like you were inside a tent. The play was staged in traverse, with audience members seated on both sides. There was only one prop on stage: a chest, which was brilliantly used throughout the play as a table, chair and podium, and container for other props.

The staging and direction made excellent and imaginative use of the limited space. There were four exits (two on either side of the stage and two on the sides) and two windows. Each one was covered by the fabric and would open and close during the course of the production. There were times when the actors were outside of the “tent” performing, and at times were they would be talking to each other from the windows. There was a sense of intimacy in the room. Actors would interact with audience members and let them be part of the story.

The lighting and sound were very simple, but worked perfectly, setting the mood and complementing the performance without stealing focus from the performers. The costumes were beautiful and well executed, especially considering the small production budget.

At one point I looked around the room and noticed that there were people of all ages from little children (8-10 years old maybe) to young adults, adults and seniors. Every single person was captivated, entertained and very much engaged in the drama. Three hours later I was left inspired and just happy to have been able to see such a wonderful piece of theatre!

Angie

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