11
Sep
18

Hamnet

 

Hamnet

Dead Centre

QPAC Cremorne

September 8 – 12 2018

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

To be or not to be…

 

There’s a problem when you try to understand big things by looking at small things. You get lost.

 

Hamnet is too young to understand Shakespeare. And he is one letter away from being a great man. We are too old to understand Hamnet. We meet in the middle, in a theatre.

 

A 60-minute monologue from an 11-year-old boy in the guise of Shakespeare’s forgotten son? GOT ME.

 

I love what Brisbane Festival AD, David Berthold, has to say about Ireland’s Dead Centre, this “most alive” of theatre companies. “They approach so-called ‘great’ works from the winking edges, not the sinking centre…”

The winking edges…

 

 

You haven’t heard of me. You’ll think you have at first, but then you’ll realise you were thinking of someone else. It happens every time. 

 

Hamnet is the most ordinary, adorable, unassuming, innocent, curious, quietly grieving, reading, friendly, tech savvy, confident, hoodie clad, backpack carrying kid, convinced that by the time he bounces a ball against the wall infinity times, it will penetrate the wall. This is a concept vaguely known to me as something unfathomable within quantum physics. Hamnet simply continues to pursue the possibility that such a notion might be true, hoping that he will gain access to another dimension. Maybe tomorrow. Hmmm… Maybe in my meditation. In the meantime, he has many questions, which he puts quite candidly to us and later, just as candidly to the ghost of his father, William Shakespeare. When he doesn’t get the answers he wants, he asks Google. In this play we get very few of the answers, and all the questions, about selfishness, sadness, career, choice, pride, parents, absent parents, art, sacrifice, siblings, death, grief, growing up, greatness, and the way we communicate (or not) with our children.

 

Aran Murphy’s manner on stage is completely and utterly relaxed. It’s hard to believe that this is his first professional production. (He loves acting and football; he’s a Liverpool fan). It’s not an easy gig, and Murphy’s performance is flawless.

 

It’s been a little while since I’ve seen an audience so intrigued and delighted and invested in a one-man show, but we’re curious from the outset, seeing ourselves on Andrew Clancy’s mirror-wall behind Murphy, the feature of a necessarily simple design to facilitate the coming and going of the ghost of Hamnet’s father via video, and hearing from Hamnet that a) he shouldn’t talk to strangers  and b) he’s not a great man, before he goes on to tackle the bigger questions in life, and that famous speech…out of the mouth of a babe.

 

Murphy is at ease communicating directly with the audience as well as with the actor playing Shakespeare, and manages a number of props, precisely placing each on the stage in the position we see them on screen, another vital aspect of the video’s authenticity, projected onto the same wall as the live stream of the very performance we’re at. He moves and speaks in perfect synchronicity with his own image and with that of his father. In this live theatrical liminal space, the kid is incredible.

 

 

AV Designer José Miguel Jimenez has a fascinating litany of collaborative works behind him and brings wit, deft timing and a sharp eye to this project, allowing Hamnet and his father to commune, even connecting them physically, or so it would seem, due to the technical precision and astute direction of Bush Moukarzel & Ben Kidd (also the co-writers), the acting and AV.

 

This sweet, short show is surprisingly moving. It might make you consider your every kind or unkind thought, word and action. It might make you question the kind of human you believed you wanted to be, what lasting effect you want to have on your family, your friends, the people you meet. What sort of legacy you want to leave. What impact you want to have on their lives every day, while you’re still here. What you can choose to do and say every day to let those closest to you know you forgive them for their absence and that you love them…before having to test the theory of quantum tunnelling to reach them one day.

 

Adulting is hard. Being a kid is different hard. Dead Centre’s Hamnet gently and playfully peels the skin from our eyelids and invites us to look for a little longer at the thoughts and fears we thought we’d forgotten, or didn’t know we were ever going to have.

 

 

 

Production pics & Youtube footage feature Ollie West as Hamnet

 


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