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Denmark's A Prison. Literally.

October 12, 2010

813469108.jpgBy far the best thing about attending We Players' production of Hamlet is the location. I am not sure how the small, non-profit theatre company managed to swing the insane logistics involved in undertaking such a project. But We is somehow pulling off a walk-through production of Shakespeare's tragedy on The Rock through November 21st.

The use of the space is remarkable. The opening ghost scene takes place on the ramparts of the main block, with the audience watching from far below as Hamlet and his cohorts scamper about trying desperately to comprehend the sight of the Prince's dead father, refracted eerily through the presence of several figures standing motionless in black jumpsuits and white head coverings. The Mousetrap scene takes place in a cell area, with the audience crammed behind bars while the scene change occurs in the walkway between the cells. And Claudius' private confession of guilt in the chapel transpires in the mouth of a hidden tunnel close to a rusty mammoth water tower with a giddy view of the Golden Gate Bridge and city lights behind him.

If only the acting were on a par with the setting. The voluntary cast gives a great deal -- they play with undeniable commitment and passion. But there is no subtlety or nuance in their performances. Obviously the acting has to be "large" in the opening outdoor scenes when the actors have to contend with ferry noise and other daytime distractions. But all the scenes, whether played indoors or outside, are communicated at such a fraught and feverish pitch that the play soon becomes exhausting and ultimately tedious to watch.

Still, simply getting a chance to experience parts of the island prison that members don't ordinarily get to see makes this Hamlet a worthwhile adventure.


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