Tropical Arts on Tour had a modern angle to William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. It was an angle rather than an interpretation, because they stuck meticulously to the Shakespearean text while allowing the modern costumes and cinematographic background to give modern relevance to the play.
Of course, Shakespeare’s very universality allows for that.
In the lead up to the opening scene the audience was shown a video backdrop of a typical city scene with pedestrians, cars and buses moving about normally.
Then the characters appeared in modern clothing. It was a bit hard at first to tell who was who, but as soon as Polonius gave his advice to the parting Laertes, they fell in to order.
Shakespeare’s universality does not quite run to that part of Polonius’s advice saying “neither a lender nor a borrower be”. In the modern Australian financial climate, the advice would be to go out and borrow as much as you can to get a toehold into the property market as quickly as you can.
But in the non-financial, real-world climate, Tropical Arts on Tour sent a subtle message. Having given us the cinematographic background of a normal city functioning normally at the beginning of the play, that changed at the end.
It came after Hamlet, true to text throughout the play, displayed the human weakness of a lack of resolve. It came after that lack of resolve to avenge his father’s murder by his Uncle Claudius. The deed not done, Hamlet then takes a spur-of-the-moment deadly attack on a hiding person who he thought was Claudius but in fact was Polonius. This results in the madness and death of Hamlet’s love Ophelia (Polonius’s daughter and Laertes’s sister).
Hamlet’s lack of initial resolve also allows the evil uncle to set up a sword fight between Hamlet and Laertes with a poison sword and poison cup. Hamlet’s mother accidentally drinks from the poison cup. Both Hamlet and Laertes in their fight are struck by the poison sword. But Hamlet finally kills his uncle before succumbing to the poison.
Death and catastrophe all around because of a lack of resolve.
The cinematographic background then showed tornadoes; storms and fires and other climate-change induced disasters.
It was a terrific analogy. Innocent bystanders like Gertrude and Ophelia die because of a lack of resolve by someone who should have grasped early on national leadership: Hamlet. And the evil uncle – read the fossil fuel industry – dies anyway, but the catastrophe could have been avoided if Hamlet had had the resolve and political will to deal with it earlier.
One may as well have stood outside the Glasgow conference and yelled: To be or not to be. That is the question.
Well done Tropical Arts on Tour. True to the Shakespearean text yet delivering a message for our times.
Crispin Hull BA, LLB (Hons) | Lawyer of the Supreme Court of the ACT, on the Register of Practitioners kept by the High Court of Australia
mob: 0419 478 391 | ph: 07 4099 3619 | Skype: crispin.hull