Hamlet (Pessoa, 2012)

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Hamlet

Teatro da Garagem’s production of Hamlet, staged by Carlos Pessoa, trusts in minimal resources: the actors are mostly dressed in black and there are very few props. The set contains only a large wooden box which the actors move around several times in order to rearrange the space according to the scenes, so the box can be a stand where the characters sit to watch the play and a grave which hides half of the gravedigger’s body before the remains of Yorick pop out. At a given moment, the shape of the box resembles a coffin; and for the final act it is raised vertically. In other moments, one of the surfaces of the box is used as a screen, where live images of the actors are projected. These images are interspersed with the ones already projected into the screen cutting the background horizontally: live images of the actors on stage are used along with stock images of landscapes, for instance. The most stunning effects created by the images are the ones where the actors are given close-ups, such as in the opening scenes, where the ghost’s presence is underlined by the lighting and the facial work of the actors trembling because of the unearthly presence is enhanced by the close-up. Later on, while the characters grieve over Ophelia’s body, the screen will show the actress’s face, who is lying in the stage, over the image of toy cars simulating traffic jams: the disconcerting effect of movement superimposed on the stillness of the dead character contributes to the overall attempt of building up the intensity of the play throughout the performance.

In fact, the play’s staging revolves around its stage-director’s idea that “one of the lessons in Hamlet is the fact that there is a deaf rage that builds up and turns into strength.” To build up the intensity as the play develops, both the lighting and the sound are expertly used throughout. For instance, in the final scene, contrariwise to the expected, the action is mimicked by the characters while Horatio narrates the events. The microphone used by Horatio during the narration, along with the electronic soundtrack blasting, give the play’s final scene a similarity to a modern dance performance, where the actors’ bodies seem more relevant than the actual words. The narration comes with an order of Hamlet, which commands Horatio to tell his story; and Hamlet’s last lines are to prevent Horatio’s death, again emphasizing the need to tell the story. Horatio is thus alone on stage to receive Fortinbras, entering with bare muscled arms, the skin the only hint of color among the darkness into which the play unfolds.

 

Hamlet (Shanghai) 2016

Following Teatro da Garagem’s 2012 production of Hamlet, this staging recasts most of its actors but modifies the use of space and eliminates altogether the video projections. Presented at the 9th Shanghai International Experimental Theatre Festival in 2016, the play’s set relies now on a cluster of wooden sticks to which balloons are attached to. The space is again rearranged during the play by resetting the wooden sticks into different positions: placing them in a straight line gives us the wall where the ghost first appears, or the drapes behind which Polonius is murdered, while rearranging them in a square gives us a prison cell look. The use of the balloons is especially efficient in Ophelia’s monologue, during which she moves along a zigzagging line of balloons, stepping on each one’s string as she progresses in the text. Dressed in white — contrasting with the prevailing black —, Ophelia ends the scene confined within the prison cell built by the reordering of the balloons. Laertes’ arrival unfolds with Ophelia stuck in this cell, a presence refashioned not as a character but as a ghostly spirit. In any case, the mere depth of the stage and the empty space in which the actors move underline even more the relevance already given to the text and the actors’ work.

Again, as in 2012, the last scene is narrated in the third person on Hamlet’s demand: “Horatio, tell my story.” Unlike the previous production, there is no microphone and the voices must reach above the music; much more contained than the previous version, it still brings around the idea of the build-up into which the play progresses, an intensification cut down only by the silence after the deaths and Hamlet’s almost whisper-like lines for Horatio not to take the poison. Fortinbras’ entrance into an empty stage is highlighted only by the color yellow, in the jacket he wears and in the big balloon he carries, a weak figure contrasting with the first production’s muscled and toned naked arms glowing amongst the blackness of the clothes. Again, the biggest strength in this staging is how space is used as an advantage; the exceedingly long time Fortinbras takes to move from right to left highlights the empty stage where no bodies remain: darkness has been replaced by emptiness, to no lesser effect.


Production description provided by Telmo Rodrigues, Assistant Professor at Escola Superior de Aveiro Norte, Universidade de Aveiro. He is currently preparing his post-doctoral research on the Portuguese writer Agustina Bessa-Luís.

 

Hamlet Programme

Cast and Crew

Text: Carlos Pessoa.

Dramaturgical support: José Henrique Neto.

Actors: Ana Palma; André Almas, Emanuel Arada, Joana Liberal, José Henrique Neto, Maria João Vicente, Miguel Mendes, Nuno Nolasco and Nuno Pinheiro.

Set design: Sérgio Loureiro.

Light Design: Catarina Mendes.

Music: Daniel Cervantes.

Video: Carlos J. Pessoa, Sérgio Loureiro and Teresa Azevedo Gomes.

Production manager: Maria João Vicente.

Assistant production: João Belo.

Photography: Marisa Cardoso and Teresa Azevedo Gomes

 

Reviews

Expresso, 5 May 2012

HAMLET
Teatro Taborda, Lisbon, from the 10th to the 27th

by João Carneiro

At a point in our conversation, Carlos Pessoa, the stage director of this performance, says that “Hamlet uses theatre as a laboratory”. Hamlet, the prince of Denmark, sees a ghost, his father’s spirit, the dead king. He speaks to him, and the spectre tells his son that he has been murdered by Claudius, who was then king, and that Hamlet’s mother, who meanwhile married Claudius, had been his accomplice. Such a beginning triggers a tragedy of vengeance that is, still, a complex construction about power, truth, action, and, finally, knowledge. “Hamlet” uses a group of actors that re-enact a story of crime in order to observe both the king and Hamlet’s mother’s reactions, to compare them with the claims of the spectre, and thus try to understand the truth. Pessoa’s comparing theatre to a laboratory is a direct reference to this scene, but he also talks about theatre as a “lifeboat for the difficulties of today’s life in general. Issues such as conscience, perplexity, audacity, indecision, ability for operating or acting, are laid bare by theatre, and by this play specifically”. In a time dominated by the virtual and the digital, the spectre is a reality, a deeply humane element; an element that sets off a series of triggers, that initiates turmoils that lead characters into trying to know complex things better, humane situations that, when they’re not controlled, can become pathological. It is interpreted by Ana Palma, André Almas, Emanuel Arada and Maria João Vicente, among others.


Time Out Lisbon, 9 May 2012

Something is rotten in this state.

That is, if it weren’t enough for Hamlet to carry his classic tragedy, let’s ask him to carry ours. Catarina Homem Marques went to see if it is to be or not to be.

To be or not to be? That is the question Hamlet asked, that everyone heard of, and that some people even dared to replicate. But it happens that that is still the question, or at least that’s the assurance of Teatro da Garagem, who will present the great Shakespearean classic at Teatro Taborda, from next Thursday.

“This text is a backbone of western culture, and that is why it was legitimate to stage it in a moment when the West is going through an identity and guidance crisis that is mirrored on the daily life of each one of us”, as the stage-director, Carlos J. Pessoa, explains. And yes, so that there are no more doubts, this means that one can even go from the story about the prince of Denmark, to a reflection on the Pingo Doce incident . “We can take the opportunity to learn from the past, with Shakespeare, and wake up. After all, what am I? What is happening to me? Everyday letters from the IRS, people invading Pingo Doce.”

Because in Hamlet there is also a terrible political crisis, an identity anguish, a bankruptcy of the ruling power. “A crisis that is lived in Denmark, in its geographic relation with Scandinavia. A relation in which the pigs are the Scandinavian. One just needs to alter the cardinal point. Today, the pigs are the people from the South, the pigs are us.” And this Hamlet complies with the classic text even when, in the middle of many deaths, we feel guided by Horatio in a kind of rock and roll concert. “And we did this with communication resources that are now fundamental do us: the digital resources. With them, I feel a pleasure of immersion in pictures and sound, with everything enveloping us.” Like when Hamlet delivers his monologues, divided into three, him on stage, and his projections on the set.

Him, Hamlet, to whom it wasn’t enough to carry his own classic tragedy, sees himself with the incumbency of carrying ours as well. “When he utters the to be or not to be, that is him asking himself whether he should crash everything, whether he should act or keep quiet and oblivious, he suffers with the loss of filiation that also happened to us. Are we a country? Who governs us? To be or not to be, either we go forward or stay put.” Theatre as a mirror of reality, in which the throne of Denmark occupied by Norwegians can be EDP occupied by the Chinese, and where Hamlet is still more important than every troika or austerity programme.


Visão

ON OUR URGENCY
The Teatro da Garagem company mirrors today’s world through Hamlet

by Gabriela Lourenço

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, / Than are dreamt of in your philosophy”, says Hamlet, prince of Denmark, in one of Shakespeare’s most famous and most staged plays. This time the stage is the one at Teatro Taborda, where Carlos J. Pessoa and his Teatro da Garagem perform Hamlet, following an urgency that is theirs, but, as they believe, will also be the audience’s. “Theatre must be a mirror of the world. This is a play about ghosts, and we live in a time where many ghosts arise”, says the stage-director. A story of inner turmoils, but also of the convulsions of a country, of a Denmark going through an identity crisis, that today could be called Europe. “There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of by politicians, publicists, scientists…”, Carlos J. Pessoa teases. “One of the lessons in Hamlet is the fact that there is a deaf rage that builds up and turns into strength”, he adds. Thus, after four centuries, it still makes sense to stage Hamlet. “Everyday we hear about vengeance. The text is so relevant today… all things are there, on the surface”, he notes. Yes, there is something rotten in the state of Europe…


Público – Ipsilon, 11 May 2012

Hamlet’s inner turmoil is the turmoil of today’s common citizen

by Ana Dias Cordeiro

In this saga of a prince broken by his tragic truth, there is a visionary quality that can transport us into the present.

Theatre appears as an urgency, and the elements on stage appear as a vision. In this case there is only one – though large – object that the stage director Carlos J. Pessoa imagined. And an urgency that is explained by the ghosts that the text, five centuries old, awakes today.

It happened in a first rehearsal, with the actors sitting around a table. “I looked at them, and saw the object. In theatre, we have visions, we see things.” And what he imagined was that shape, made of wood, that could be many things (and that is now shown to the spectator): a tomb or a coffin, but also a whale or the battlements of a castle, the windows through which someone peaks, the back of the future king’s chair, or the hole into which the dead are thrown, in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet (1564-1616). “Such is the prodigality of theatre. It has everything. You just have to use your imagination to see what you want”, says the stage director, and founder of the Teatro da Garagem, Carlos J. Pessoa.

The rest is composed by figures dressed in black – both real and imaginary – on the stage of the Taborda Theatre (the home of the Teatro da Garagem company), right next to the Castle, in Lisbon. Bodies and ghosts, voices and shadows, in the 66th creation of Teatro da Garagem, since yesterday, and until the 27th of May, of this tragedy that begins with the ghost of the dead King of Denmark, speaking to his son, Hamlet, with a truth: having been murdered by his uncle, Claudius, who is now King and married to Hamlet’s mother.

Truth or madness? Hamlet needs to be sure about the first and appear the second in order to avenge his father’s death, like he requested. He uses a group of actors that perform for the kingdom, asking them to stage the King’s, his father, death, just like he described it, in order to expose his uncle, Claudius.

Misery and greatness

The text that is worked here by actors and stage-directors is the original one, though cleansed of “asides” and “redundancies” introduced in Elizabethan theatre, when it was common to repeat to the audience what had happened in the previous chapter, because people used to come in and out of the Globe Theatre in the London of the other side of the Thames, during the XVI century.

In this version, the text has been reduced in order to turn an originally four hour performance, into a two and a half hour play, keeping what was fundamental in the dramaturgy, says the stage-director. From the plot, what remained was the political issue, the many characters. “When one makes a performance, one takes away from the dramatic literature to add theatre – and theatre means light, music, movement.”

And if the text is still anchored in the time of its author’s life, the play interprets it in the light of the stage-director’s time, he who is fascinated by this work that “understands humanity” with its cruelty, compassion and greatness.

In Shakespeare, “humanity’s greatness appears in the bare mirroring of a greatness, and, at the same time, of a sadness”, Pessoa goes on. “He doesn’t forgive anyone. It is very cruel in that sense, he sees humanity with that greatness. Cruelty is necessary, in the sense of crudeness, not in the sense of malice.”

Misery in the reverse of human greatness. Cruelty in the reverse of compassion. “In Shakespeare’s plays, pervades a cruelty that is at the same time a sense of compassion, human compassion. None of these characters [in Hamlet] is mistreated by Shakespeare. Every one of them have the opportunity to show themselves as worthy of our compassion. And in this respect it is an extraordinary play”, the stage-director concludes.

In this saga of a prince broken by his tragic truth, there is a visionary quality that can transport us into the present. “Hamlet’s inner turmoil is the turmoil of today’s common citizen. I felt the need to think about this”, he notes. And that is why he made it now, for the first time, which is also the first time he’s staged Shakespeare with Teatro da Garagem.

“This play is a spectral play, about ghosts. And for me, this is justified today. There is a series of ghosts that disturb us, that show up again. If something is rotten in the state of Denmark [like the soldier says], I believe that something is rotten in the state of Europe.”

The moment in which the ghost of the king, Hamlet’s father, shows up and tells him “revenge [my] murder”, evokes other voices to Carlos J. Pessoa: the voice of a Greek citizen, today, promising vengeance to Germany for the imposed austerity. “Hamlet is a play that brings Ancient Europe’s ghosts to the surface.”

Like a double on stage

Those ghosts (Hamlet’s), that every character carries, enter the stage in form of a large screen, in the background, like an actor’s double on stage.

The digital joined today’s context to justify – even more – in the mind of the stage-director, this performance today. “The digital revolution, that we are living, justifies that we perform Hamlet, a play in which the issue of spectres is manifest. What is the digital if not the emulation of spectres, the bringing to the theatre the possibility of ghosts?” And he stresses: “There’s a whole dimension that the digital revolution allows for: it is possible to create mystery, a magical dimension, a mystique that belongs to the play.”

The mystique is in Hamlet’s own posture and speech, when he says: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, / Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

Hamlet (Emanuel Arada) appears in his real and, at the same time, virtual dimension, in the big screen. Like there appears also, briefly, Horatio, Hamlet’s friend (Nuno Nolasco, in the picture), Ophelia (Joana Liberal), Claudius, the King of Denmark (Miguel Mendes), Gertrude, Queen and Hamlet’s mother (Maria João Vicente), the King’s councillor, Polonius, the ghost and the gravedigger (all of them played by José Neto), Laertes and the Soldier (both played by an actress, Ana Palma).

In the darkness that drags an entire kingdom, Denmark, into the abyss, before the aspirations of the prince of Norway, Fortinbras, Hamlet’s tragedy, the man’s, is to fulfill his destiny, to make a choice: to be or not to be, to act or not to act, to avenge or not to avenge his father’s death.


Time Out Lisbon

PERFORMANCE OF THE WEEK

by Rui Monteiro

First of all, vengeance. Then, corruption, incest, conspiracy, murder, for Hamlet is like a manual, a guide for bad family practices, a compendium for political opportunism, a list of human deficiencies. (And all of this before psychoanalysis took care of the matter.) What is certain, guaranteed, is that it is a tragedy, today, for instance, reconsidered in a more ironical than serious way, by Teatro da Garagem, like an example of the disarray of the world.

As it is known, the curtain isn’t up yet, and Gertrude (Maria João Vicente) married the murderer, that hurried to take his place in the throne. At the same time, prince Hamlet (Emanuel Arada) hadn’t begun having visions, nor had it crossed his mind that his uncle, then turned into his stepfather, was the killer. Something, though, is whispering in his ear, and when the truth surfaces, chaos arises. The result is that, in less than two hours, in this version staged by Carlos J. Pessoa, everything gets so rotten in the state of Denmark that, regardless of righteous or sinful men, all things are affected; Elsinore’s kingdom is decimated with refinement and wickedness, in many, and varied was, none of them pleasant or natural, with Polonius (José Henrique Neto) marching in front of a column, and who, in his way, will be joined by Ophelia (Joana Liberal), dead on account of an excess of love, Rosenkrantz & Guildenstern (Nuno Pinheiro), here “Associates”, like a law firm, Laertes (Ana Palma), Ophelia’s vengeful brother, and even the queen, Claudius, the usurper, and, of course, Hamlet, who is entitled a final declaration for being the moral winner of the story.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) wrapped this carnage in a poetic shroud of machination and dissimulation, that transports the characters from the midst of the crudity of truth and the tragedy of death, to moral dissidence. Pessoa sees “multiple reverberations, short-circuits, discontinuities” in the original – and surely also touched by its trans-temporal echo – that he amplifies and radicalizes in the bodies of the actors, and through Sérgio Loureiro’s multi-semiotic setting, thus creating a performance that is both rich and challenging, dissecting the conflict as someone who searches for an answer and comes across new interrogations, that is, the need for other answers.

 

 


Production notes provided by Maria Sequeira Mendes, Assistant Professor, School of Arts and Humanities – University of Lisbon.

 

 

Hamlet

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