Hamlet Frequency a triumphant absurdist adaptation of the classic

Denise Clarke directs and choreographs the latest incarnation of the classic play in our season of Hamlet. Caroline Russell-King offers a postcard review.

Show: The Hamlet Frequency.

Playwright/composer: “Created with support from One Yellow Rabbit and the OYR beautifulyoungartists program.”

Theatre: The Studio at Vertigo (by The Shakespeare Company, Hit + Myth and OYR).

Length: One act (60 mins.).

Genre(s): An absurdist adaptation of a drama (told through movement, dance, dialogue, monologue and choral work).

Premise: In this other realm, a self-conscious, narcissistic, young Hamlet and the other characters who act as chorus/backup dancers, retell this pared-down classic story with re-purposed pop, rock, disco, heavy metal and Aretha Franklin songs. (It shouldn’t work – but it does!)

Why this play? Why now?: The fantastic thing is, as we recently saw with the local production of Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, in absurdist theatre what the audience brings into the house will in many ways be mirrored on the stage. This play spoke to me of politics and the human condition, what you get out of it may differ.

Curiosities: I wondered if the curtain call could be shorter than Act 5. I was curious about the decision to leave the audience out of the party. I wonder, as I often do, how the SOCAN rights are secured. And lastly I wondered how do you pitch a play like this? It could, without Denise Clarke, be such a white hot mess — but seeing is believing.

Notable line: All your Hamlet favourites!

Notable writing: It’s mostly Shakespeare — ’nuff said.

Notable performance: Christopher Duthie plays the precocious prince with aplomb.

Notable design: This design is clean and concise: fog (a 420 reference), a curtain and a throne.

Notable direction: Clarke, Canada’s answer to Twyla Tharp, is brilliant. Assistant director Mark Kunji Ikeda (who brands himself under his company Dance Theatre) is her perfect side-kick in this dry, synchronized swimming, mosh pit, ASL, chorus line.

One reason to see this show: I’ve seen quite a few Hamlets — adaptations, drunk, sober, traditional, modern, from Olivier, to kids in the park — and maybe I’m crazy, but out of all of them this is my favourite. 

The Hamlet Frequency runs until May 25 at The Studio, Vertigo Theatre.

Caroline Russell-King is a playwright, dramaturg, and instructor. She is a member of The Playwrights Guild of Canada, the Dramatist Guild of America and the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. You can find her work here