The end of the world is nigh. In fact, it is just mere hours away. But for seven people there is something more pressing at hand. These seven actors have come together for one final time to stage Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Eventually what is fiction and what is reality is not as clear as it once was as the group attempts to accept what is happening outside while remaining committed to their last rehearsal and to their roles.
As Hamlet's story unfolds, links are made between the tale and the actors' personal lives that are impossible to ignore, and everything begins to slowly and painfully unravel. The ensemble - Chris Beckey, Katrina Cornwell, Nicole Harvey, Thomas Hutchins, Polly Sará, Peta Ward and Mitch Wood - deliver utterly engrossing performances as the actors in the play and as the characters within the play of the play. They find nuanced balanced of showing the truth of both their characters and highlighting the similarities and differences to who they are playing.
Steven Mitchell Wright's adept direction demands a lot from the cast - physically and emotionally - and while they don't show it during the performance, when they take their bow at the end of the show, you can see just how exhausted they are.
The design elements of this production are absolutely remarkable. Wright's staging has plastic sheets surrounding the actors in their rehearsal space, and while it is virtually empty apart for some mismatched chairs, a table and ladders, there is an opulence present that is in direct contrast with the reality of what is happening and what we are seeing. This is also reflected in Wright and Oscar Clark's costuming with the Shakespearean attire and the modern day clothes that the actors wear. As the real world and Hamlet begin to blend into one, so do to their costumes and the various props in the room / on the stage.
Dane Alexander's sound design builds on the tension occurring within this play within a play but also on the apocalyptic events taking place outside. The jarring piercing notes that are used as a countdown to the end of the world leave you unsettled and anxious. Ben Hughes' captivating lighting design creates depth and shadows that cleverly adds to the suspense of both worlds.
There is much to take in with The Hamlet Apocalypse with the chaos and the calm constantly at odds with each other. The quiet sombre moments are challenged by the big macabre ones, and if you're not familiar with Hamlet then there's a chance that some of it may go over your head. But at its heart, this is an exploration of what it mean for humans to expose themselves and face their vulnerability and regrets, which is something that everyone can relate to. The Danger Ensemble has recently relocated to Melbourne and if this production is anything to go, the Melbourne theatre scene is about to get shaken up.
Venue: Theatre Works, 14 Acland St, St Kilda
Season: Until 18 November | Tues - Sat 8pm, Sun 5pm
Tickets: $47.50 Full | $39.50 Conc
Bookings: Theatre Works
Photo Credits: Morgan Roberts