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TNT Theatre's "Hamlet" - Impressions and Expressions of Ijon
December 9th, 2008
02:27 am

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TNT Theatre's "Hamlet"
Just got back from the theater; we watched an English production of Hamlet, by the TNT Theatre company. It was absolutely brilliant.

Before I tell you how it was so: if you have the English to enjoy it, do yourself a favor and reserve tickets for one of the following three performances, the only ones to be given in Israel. (The rest of you lotMy gentle readers abroad, more fortunate than me in access to English-speaking productions, should nevertheless attempt to secure tickets to a performance of this production, as they are currently on a grand European and Asian tour. You're on your own finding performances, though1.

So: The Israeli dates are these:
DateVenueTickets
Dec 9th (that's tomorrowtoday)Tel Aviv, the Gesher Theater (AKA "Noga"), 20:30Le'an, 03-5247373
Dec 10thHaifa, Rapaport Hall, 20:30Garber, 04-8384777, 04-8418411
Dec 11thJerusalem, Rebecca Crown 20:30Bimot/Kla'im, 02-6237000, 02-6222333, or Jerusalem Theater Box Office 02-5605755

And that's that. Go. Reserve your tickets now!

Now for the review. First and foremost, the Hamlet. That is, the actor portraying Hamlet. Not every competent actor can carry off a worthwhile Hamlet. We Israeli theater-goers are fortunate to have a great Hamlet available right now, incarnate in the fantastic Itay Tiran; if you haven't yet seen the Hebrew production at the Cameri theater, it's still playing, occasionally -- consult their schedule and go see ithim! A natural Hamlet in Hebrew does not come around more than once in a lifetime, I think. So as I was saying, the Hamlet -- TNT's Hamlet (Martin Christopher) is perfect: passionate, brooding, young, and above all intelligent. I can hardly overemphasize the importance of intelligence in portraying Hamlet; in delivering some of his lines, his gestures, his rhythm in a pitch-perfect way.

Secondly, the ensemble. The entire cast numbers seven actors, some with triple roles. That's not very unusual; what's unusual and exciting are those constant and fluid changes each actor makes between foreground and background, "background" consisting of anything from playing one of several musical instruments (almost every one of them has at least a go at each instrument) to adjusting the set or preparing props, to producing sound effects.  It really has to be seen to be appreciated.

Next, the minimalistic set:  minimalism in stage design is fairly popular these days (at least in Israeli productions), but this production's use of the stage and the props is simply charming.

There is plenty of original music throughout the play, not only in obvious bits such as Ophelia's songs but also in certain monologues (making some a sort of recitative) and as incidental music.  All music is performed by the "background" actors on simple instruments.

Also, there is much attention to humor; it is of course a commonplace that Shakespeare has humorous passages in his tragedies, and few productions fail to use Rosencrantz and Gildenstern as the comic relief they so obvious are;  this production goes all the way with R&G, adding some excellent physical comedy to what Shakespeare endowed them with, and further makes the most of the humorous potential of many of Hamlet's lines.  An emphasis on physical acting is also evident in the portrayal of the actors (those who play "The Murder of Gonzago", that is), simulating a puppet-show with live actors (see last picture here).

Finally, nearly all modern productions of Hamlet adapt the text by excising certain passages, both to shorten the very long play to suit modern theatergoer expectations (damn those!) and, ostensibly, modern taste (ha!).  The detailed instructions Hamlet issues the actors -- Shakespeare's little aside on the vices of his colleagues -- are, for instance, usual candidates snipped out.  This production was no exception, but I can attest their redaction was tasteful, and I did not feel a bit short-changed.  I applaud director and adaptor Paul Stebbings for that. (It lasted nearly a full three hours, ~170 minutes.)

Excellent acting by the entire ensemble, immaculate timing and an evident joy in the work, complete my list of this production's virtues.  I'd have reminded you to go reserve your tickets now, but of course, you've already done that, right?  Right.



1 Alright, alright, I'm weak: Here's their performance schedule, and if nothing appropriate shows up, there; now you have no excuse. Besides, if this production's any indication, go see anything by TNT/ADG.

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From:shunra
Date:December 9th, 2008 04:40 am (UTC)
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Alas, I will miss this delightful rendition of That Play.

I get to see Shachaf in a high school production of Hamlet* in January though. And if Fortune smiles at me, I'll see him** later in 2009 in Rosenkranz & Gildenster Are Dead, which a local theater is putting on. Seeing both in one season may blow my mental fuses.

--
* He really wanted to be Yorrick, but their costume department wasn't up to the job, so he got a small speaking part, instead.

** Not sure in what role. Possibly Ophelia. He mentioned that as one of the more interesting ones.
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From:shunra
Date:December 9th, 2008 11:00 pm (UTC)
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I saw the traveling show's Vancouver BC version.

FWIW, I found it depressing. Sure, I knew all the lines. Sure, it was a lot like the movie. But what it had in terms of glitzy high production values it lacked in terms of the magic of actual theater. Spamalot failed to transport me and suspend my disbelief. I'd go for indy theater over glitz any time, basically. (Well, any time except when I'm in BC with a stagestruck 10 year old. She *adored* Spamalot.)
From:(Anonymous)
Date:December 11th, 2008 12:50 pm (UTC)

TNT Hamlet

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Asaf,

Based on your notice, my daughter and I went to the Tuesday night performance. Many thanks! We thoroughly enjoyed it. The TNT company shows that theater, or at least Hamlet, even when limited to a few simple props and a wood bench, can be spellbinding. One gets the impression that this was Shakespeare's goal. We also saw the "Itay Tiran" Hebrew version last year, a version that tried to make Hamlet more relevant by conveying the significance of royal events in global affairs. By contrast, the TNT version provided a simple vehicle for the display of man's deepest emotions. As a result, I thought it was timeless, and therefore all the more relevant.

--Jon Kagan
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