Director: Roy Sargeant
Performers: David Johnson, Peter Butler, Deidre Wolhuter, Ralph Lawson, Brendan Murray, Julia Anastasopoulos
Venue: Artscape Theatre
Daytime soapies and Quentin Tarantino's gun-fuelled finales are referenced in this successful local production aimed at students studying William Shakespeare's tragedy during their last year at high school.
Director Roy Sargeant sets this version of Hamlet in the "offices, residential apartments and on the verandas of Denmark-RSA Shipping" company in Cape Town. The year is 2007.
The title character, Hamlet, is a young man losing his mind. He wants to know whether his father's brother killed his dad to marry his mother and lay his hands on his wealth. (It has incest and therefore sounds like a soapie.) Plus, Hamlet is seeing his father's spirit and there's this old-timer, Polonius, who wants him to marry his daughter, Ophelia.
The present-day setting transforms the characters into suit-wearing business types. Hamlet, played by David Johnson, symbolically wears black for most of the play as he mourns his father's death. His mother marrying his uncle swiftly after her husband's death also leads him to further suspicion and rage.
Guns, cellphones, glossy magazines, laptop computers and e-mails projected on to a big screen and a coffin add that modern spin. Clever lighting and theatre techniques include hanging three long mirrors on the stage as part of a bedroom scene. The effect is cinematic as the characters are reflected in the mirror while playing out the scene on stage.
It takes a little while to get used to Johnson but he soon shows that he has credibility. Peter Butler plays Claudius, Hamlet's uncle, and his mother Gertrude is played by Deidre Wolhuter whose characterisation personifies every drunken TV trophy wife. Ralph Lawson offers a memorably comic Polonius.
One questions why young people are still taught this old hat at school but the text is so rich that one can't imagine why they shouldn't be privilege to this tradition.