Hamlet Apocalypse

 The story goes like this. The world will end in ten. We don’t know where, why or how, but in ten measured amounts of time, the apocalypse will come. 

Presented by: The Danger Ensemble and La Boite IndieVenue: La Boite   Sunday 28th August 2011
hamlet apocalypseThe story goes like this. The world will end in ten. We don’t know where, why or how, but in ten measured amounts of time, the apocalypse will come. Seven actors are rehearsing Hamlet. They are the cast and they are themselves. Lights up. 
There is an image in my mind when I hear the term physical theatre. It is not dance or circus, but a physical storytelling on stage impregnated with intensity, awareness, fluidity, presence, time and space. These terms battered around can mean very little when handled by the wrong sorts but The Danger Ensemble are definitely the right sorts, highly skilled and ready to crack the ground beneath your theatrical expectations. 
This isn’t a show for the Shakespearean purist, nor would I recommend it for a Hamlet first timer. The soul of the show lies between the Hamlet text. 
Hamlet Apocalypse reached all but one of my needy urges as an audience member. All I felt was missing was a deeper exploration into the ‘actors’ lives. Yes we watched them suffer as they recited their way to doom, but we were left without the ‘why’. Each personal revelation obviously backed by years of character research (each cast member being over 20 – more than most spend on a page of magic ‘ifs’) was only given in glimpses to the audience. In exchange for the amount of anguish we invested in their well being over the 70 minutes duration, I wanted a little more pay off. Maybe a hug. Maybe a little wine for my own self indulgence.  In truth I came out feeling raw, vulnerable and a little bit glum. My ‘glum’ could be replaced by ‘inspired’, ‘distraught’, ‘overwhelmingly hopeful’ even, by another member of the audience. This show is not a story to reflect on, but an experience that we each react to in a different way. At times it was suffocating. The intensity rarely let up, but what is a little depravation to remind us of what is important? This show certainly does draw you in.  I wanted so desperately to know why I cared for the ‘actors’ and them for each other. Hamlet Apocalypse came close to losing us as audience, so internal was their journey, but the spectacle and heightened reality pulled us back. In part, the audience were emotionally involved voyeurs watching a family unravel and reveal secrets we had no right to see. And why was that? To force us to do the same, perhaps. This was a template for us to fill with our own stories, our own answers and lives, it is not always pleasant, it is not comfortable but it is full of courage.   As an audience member, the ability to constantly analyse the role of the ‘character’ and parallel this with what the ‘actors’ are revelling, is fairly important to finding something new in this show. If you have to pay attention to the character descriptions at the head of the piece you should probably have stayed in the well presented La Boite Indie Bar. Luckily if you find yourself lost there are plenty of lights and fairy dust to keep you amused.   
The show was not all doom and gloom. A hilarious performance from Peta Ward earns her a huge amount of gratitude from a solemn audience for relieving us and for delivering every line with such wit. The performances are exceptional and the closeness of the ensemble evident.  Director Steven Mitchell Wright also gets a special mention for his cameo appearance sneaking behind the transparent backdrop off stage.  Visually, this show is an endless revelation. Each moment crafted to affect us on every sensory level. It was made of magic moments; dust pirouetting through lights, haunting shadows, that enviable publicity shot that pulls in the punters time and time again. Sound design by Dane Alexander and Lyndon Chester and stunning light design by Ben Hughes sell the stakes of this show. 
The costumes were appropriate to the period and styled to fit the aesthetic: a tableau to convey a grey washed manor style portrait with the additions of a large ladder and plastic sheeting to define the stage limits. Mark Hill’s costume in particular stood out. As the least verbal of the characters he made his mark with Butoh inspired dance and physical intensity. At one point his costume (and he) melded into the set to fossilize his existence. He became the most dynamic piece of furniture I’ve seen in a long time.  During a costume change where all the actors removed their shirts a boy next to me scoffed ‘no shame’ and that, I thought, was an excellent point. This dynamic company are self described as “unashamedly children of the hyper-visual-digital-fashion saturated iWorld”, so shame is not something that would inhibit them in the slightest. 
Stripped back to the bare bones of humanity Kat Cornwell speaks her final line ‘I was here’. And may we all be. 
Hamlet Apocalypse runs as part of the Indie Season at La BoiteSeason 26 Aug – 10 SepTickets from $20http://www.laboite.com.au/

Louise Hales

Lou has worked in Theatre in Australia, Ireland and London. She is a Youth Ambassador for Zen Zen Zo Physical Theatre, an alumni member of the Australian Voices and a director and producer of independent theatre and film. With experience in acting, singing, physical theatre, technical theatre, front of house and stage management she is a devotee to the stage. Lou has studied at UQ, QUT and University College Dublin but is currently completing a bachelor of film and screen media production at Griffith University in Brisbane.

Louise Hales

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