Cape Town theatre buffs are fortunate to have an independent producer like Sugar-Daddy feeding us with slices of imposing international plays. Following its sensational Line, the staging of British playwright Richard James' witty and intelligent I Am Hamlet is another sumptuous feast.
Theatregoers are ultimate voyeurs and ultimately want their cravings satisfied. With the delicious mindbender I Am Hamlet, one viewing is definitely not enough. The stage becomes a battleground of wit and willpower between a conceited actor and imposing director, who use the "flowery" words of The Bard to duel to the death.
A deadly secret
It's one of those ingenious creations in which a deadly secret is neatly wrapped into its core and, as the play unfolds, the audience slowly unravels with the characters and the result is devastatingly profound.
Swapping roles, where the director's impassioned and overdramatic interpretations have to be reined in by the actor, or where the actor's lack of interest of understanding forces the director to tear out his hair, it's amusing drama that playfully untangles the knots and unnerves their confidence and bravura.
The Intimate Theatre offers a perfect setting for the play, allowing the audience to step onto the stage with the actor and share the audition process intimately. It is this soothing seduction that ultimately poisons reason and reveals its malevolent nature.
As hidden motives and buried secrets reveal the true nature of the motivations of the characters and the action, Shakespeare's Hamlet is indeed a wonderful metaphor to reflect the turmoil and disillusionment of the characters. I am Hamlet skilfully journeys into the mindscape of the anxious characters, exposing emotional torment. An underlying anger exposes a fragile vulnerability that is sometimes funny, and sometimes heartbreaking.
More than meets the eye
There's definitely "more than meets the eye!" and what Simon says, matters. Knowledge and knowing battle ignorance as the ritualistic audition becomes a platform that tests theirs strengths and weaknesses. The audition and Shakespeare's words touch a nerve that triggers unexpected behaviour and crucifies morality. The audition turns into a personal interrogation that result in some great interaction and reaction between the performers.
Leon Clingman delivers an astounding (and sometimes frightening) performance as a director who yearns to gain recognition in mainstream theatre. Aidan Whytock is a revelation with his masterful ability to balance introspective silence with intense emotions; his sensitive vulnerability and fearful aggression is superb as we slowly learn that the actor has more in common with the Prince of Denmark than meets the eye. Imaginatively directed by Patrick Walton, I Am Hamlet is one of those rare gems that you have to experience.
I Am Hamlet is on at the Intimate Theatre until 3 November, UCT Hiddingh Campus, 37 Orange Street, Cape Town. Performances at 8pm (except Sundays and Mondays). Tickets are R50, R40 for students and pensioners. Book at Computicket.
As a freelance film and theatre journalist for more than 30 years, published playwright and creator of the independent training initiative The Writing Studio, Daniel Dercksen received the number one spot for most popular lifestyle contributor for 2012, 2014 and 2015, and 2nd spot in 2016 on Bizcommunity.com.
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