17
Aug
17

The Hamlet Apocalypse

 

The Hamlet Apocalypse

The Danger Ensemble

Judith Wright Centre

August 9 – 19 2017

 

Reviewed by Katy Cotter

 

 

The Danger Ensemble refuse their audience to be complacent. They demand you listen, give yourself over, interrogate, ask questions, and to leave the theatre with something burning in your gut – good or bad. The Hamlet Apocalypse has had seasons at La Mama, Adelaide Fringe and La Boite Theatre Company (2011), and now explodes into the Judith Wright Centre.

 

Shakespeare’s play Hamlet is used as a portal for the audience to observe the familiar, crumble it into dust, and seek out the truth. In the beginning each actor introduces themselves and their character(s). This show is about welcoming the end, following each person traversing their own path to inevitable doom. Shakespeare’s words are used to reveal the actor’s true self and expose their own personal regrets, fears, and secret longings. Counting back from 10, each section shows the world of Hamlet disintegrating and the character’s fighting to utter their last words as the actors burst forth to have their say.

It wasn’t all depressing. There were moments of lightness and hilarity, embracing the absurdity of the Bard’s language, and poking fun of the process of making theatre and (yes, sometimes you can’t afford to have a horse on stage) its limitations. If you’ve ever witnessed a Danger Ensemble show, you know the movement is meticulously precise and beautiful. A favourite moment for me was when someone sat down too late or moved at the wrong time, only to be scolded by the rest of the company and insisting they repeat said movement before continuing. GREAT, YES!

 

 

The essence of this show is about discovering what or who you value the most at the end of all things. Who is your last thought? What is your last defiant act? The audience is privileged to hear the actor’s whisper or scream out their confessions and this is what makes the work powerful. I can only say I wanted more stillness in these moments. Wait! Slow down. I didn’t hear what you said. Stay with me! As the countdown continued, the delivery of the text quickened as the madness of the apocalypse was taking hold. I was lost in the blur between fiction and reality and grappling with the meaning of it all. That was the point. We don’t have all the answers. We don’t always get what we want. We are caught up in moments, wishing time would slow down.

The Hamlet Apocalypse is stunning, and will shock and surprise you. It may take some time to figure out what it means to you personally. For me, the experience is a fist punch to the heart. It’s the moment you see an ex-lover on the street and your stomach lurches. All the memories flood back. The first kiss, those last words. It’s beautiful and harrowing, and in a flash, they pass you by.

Artistic Director Steven Mitchell Wright continues to deliver captivating productions that keep you up at night questioning everything, perhaps yearning to live a little more dangerously. His creative team are courageous and it was clear that the performer’s left their hearts and souls on the stage opening night.    

 

 

 

10 years ago, The Danger Ensemble was founded and named such – not to demonstrate an aesthetic or overt risqué attitude but to remind the company to always be uncomfortable, to be in danger of failing. This last decade has provided much opportunity and support for the company and Brisbane has been a wonderful home for us.

As our birthday rolled around the company asked itself big questions, including are we relevant? does our investigation sustain us? should we continue as a company? is Brisbane the best place for us to be? are we still uncomfortable?

We have grown and changed in this last decade too. We have made works that we vehemently stand behind, we have made works that we would prefer to never speak of again. We have always tried to uphold an ambition in the work and risk failure. We have been supported and funded by almost every organisation or venue we could have been – we have always had great audience numbers and good support from local media. We have worked with incredible artists, producers, creatives and it was amazing. was.

The ecology here has changed dramatically, this is true nationally also – we are now in an era of increased conservatism in programming, in funding and in audience attendance. This is a reality. Money is difficult, it always has been. Opportunities are fewer for everyone. The avenues for independent organisations have dwindled. This is hugely problematic as often they are the ones that provide genuine opportunities for emerging artists – investing in their artistry, and provide work that sits in counter to main stage commercialism. Brisbane City Council and Arts Queensland need to take a very serious look at the way they are supporting local artists as well as young and emerging artists through their funding and venues as right now, independent companies are being forced to grow like weeds out of the cracks in the concrete. It’s not healthy and these companies may not survive, let alone thrive. Our theatre is boring and dying. We would be remiss if we didn’t call these things out but they are secondary to our announcement.

Brisbane, despite being our home and such an incredible supportive city – we have become too comfortable here – and it is time for us to leave you.

It is with smiles slapped across our mouths and some tears in our eyes that we announce The Hamlet Apocalypse will be our final major theatrical work* as a Brisbane-based company. In 2018, we will be making the pilgrimage that many artists have before us and planting roots in Melbourne: to be inspired by a new place and new artists, to force ourselves to redefine who we are and what we do, to reunite with old lovers, introduce ourselves to new ones and to make ourselves nervous and uncomfortable again.

Brisbane, thank you – we love you and we will be back – you will always be our home but no longer our house.

Photo by Morgan Roberts. The Hamlet Apocalypse rehearsals – East Brisbane Bowls Club.

*keep eyes peeled for a limited ticket event-come-goodbye party in November.

 

 

 

     


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