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Adelaide Festival

Festival Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre

Are you feeling it yet? The madness of March in Adelaide (actually, I started feeling it mid-February). It’s a communal phenomenon that many of us Adelaideans experience around our main festival time. That overwhelming sense of missing out because there is so much on.

So how are we supposed to choose what to go to?

Well, I’m not sure I can easily answer that, but I can say that Hamlet is a show that you have got to see.

Neil Armfield’s production of Brett Dean’s Hamlet by William Shakespeare for the Adelaide Festival 2018 is memorable and very moving. This operatic adaptation of William

Shakespeare’s most famed tragedy first premiered in 2017 at the Glyndebourne Festival in the UK. It is intoxicating, exhilarating, and if you allow it heartbreaking. You will at once be drawn into the desperate grief of Hamlet’s anguish at his late father’s death. You will witness the intensity of how this anguish develops into the unrelenting desire for revenge. You will sense the helplessness of watching a person unravel and descend into madness. And you will feel the dread that builds towards the fated final gruesome, violent, and impassioned closing scene that demonstrates why this tragedy is one of the most tragical of all.

This is penetrating theatre. Brett Dean’s music is dramatically expressive and is

complemented by Matthew Jocelyn’s libretto (operatic text) performed in English. The opera contains an assortment of arias, ensembles, and choruses supported by a collective voice of the fifty or so strong cast. At times sonic swirls of eerie vocal chants fill the auditorium invigorating all the senses. Accompanying the vocal chorus is the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra who are extraordinary and provide the moody soundscape that rattles and rumbles amongst the supernatural themes, and largely drives the unravelling of Hamlet and Ophelia’s descent into madness.

The set design is minimal, and not overstated. Giant movable Georgian inspired white walls and window panels frame many of the scenes set in the Danish royal castle in Elsinore. The supporting cast vigorously shift and scuttle these huge frames around which, when flipped, become the interior rooms of the castle that host some of the most poignant and vivid moments of the opera. At times the scant light unnervingly illuminates the actors, adding ghostly shadows further reminding us of the foreboding scenes to come. The costumes are exquisite with the cast formally dressed, dripping in jewels, and strutting in suits except for Hamlet, who is basic in black denim, a black t-shirt, and a black woollen overcoat.

British tenor Allan Clayton is exceptional as Hamlet. His dulcet voice is very well developed, and he displays with ease Hamlet’s complex emotional states and can flit moment to moment between the delicate reflective Hamlet to the rash and reckless Hamlet. The brilliantly talented Lorina Gore is vocally superb and performs the unhinging of Hamlet’s disenchanted love Ophelia with conviction. American baritone Rod Gilfry (Claudius), British tenor Kim Begley (Polonius), and Australian soprano Cheryl Barker (Gertrude) all provide strong performances. American counter-tenor Christopher Lowrey and British counter-tenor Rupert Enticknap are refreshingly sprightly and perform wonderfully as the dynamic duo Guildenstern and Rosencrantz.

Experiencing this opera is exhilarating and will awaken in you any dormant feelings of angst. Neil Armstrong has created a profound space where the audience can absorb and revel in the fascination of experiencing another’s torment and suffering through one of William Shakespeare’s most celebrated tragedies. If the purpose of good theatre is to feel more connected to the human condition, then this is exceptionally good theatre. You will leave the theatre space psychically altered.

So, if the question is: ‘to be, or not to be?’, then Neil Armstrong’s Hamlet is to be seen!

Hamlet is a Glyndebourne production presented by the Adelaide Festival

Sung in English with English supertitles When: Friday 2 March (7:30pm), Sunday 4 March (5:00pm), and Tuesday 6 March (6:00pm)

Where: Festival Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre

View Hamlet trailer: HERE

Images: Richard Hubert Smith ©Glyndebourne Productions Ltd

Production Credits:

Composer: Brett Dean | Librettist: Matthew Jocelyn | Conductor: Nicholas Carter | Director: Neil Armfield

Set Designer: Ralph Myers | Costume Designer: Alice Babidge | Lighting Designer: Jon Clark |

Movement Director and Assistant Director: Denni Sayers | Fight Director Nick Hall | Chorus Master: Brett Weymark

With the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra and State Opera of South Australia Chorus.


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