Double Bill, or What You Will / Hamlet Double Bill: La Ribalta Teatro & The English Theatre Company (Italy)

Milan Đurišić //

The requirements of European Shakespeare Festivals Network’s open call stipulated that all the performances be fitted into an approximate hour. Quite a feat, one might think, for a production of Hamlet, especially for one with “Double Bill” in the title. La Ribalta Teatro, the winners of ESFN’s contest and performers at Shakespeare Festival in Čortanovci (Serbia) dispelled our doubts and proved it feasible. Not only did they manage to fit in two different takes on Hamlet into half an hour each, but also to win the audience’s hearts with both of them.
Foto: Zahvaljujući Šekspir festivalu_

The first part, “The Play’s the Thing”, features the players telling the story of Hamlet. The story kicks off after a few contrived hiccups and Mousetrap is played out for the court with a little help of the audience and a lot of contact with them. In keeping with the players’ point of view, the first part is lively, comical, interactive and highly entertaining. With buffoonery aplenty, Shakespeare’s text is not really a major concern, and everything the actors do serves the purpose of making you laugh, and they succeed in it. When you don’t laugh, you catch yourself smiling in anticipation, which never lasts long. Some purists may argue that there was too much repetition in terms of the devices the actors used, but it never went too far and there was enough variation in whatever they did on stage. They even used their shortcomings to their advantage, for example, the Italian language and the accent two of the actors speak their English with.

The second part was perhaps less engaging because of the onslaught of the mosquitoes which made some members of the audience run for their lives, but the vast majority that remained in their seats were rewarded with a totally different, but equally successful view of Hamlet, that of the gravediggers. “The Rest Is Silence” is a slightly misleading title to it, because we hear most of Hamlet’s soliloquys, Ophelia’s lines and songs, Gertrude’s account of her death, the Gravediggers’ banter, etc. The silence (that is, death) is what provides a frame to the darker half of the show and underlines everything uttered in the second part of the double bill. The comic reliefs come in the shape of playing with words (referring to “Rosenstern and Guildencrantz”) or with the text of Hamlet (one of the gravediggers acknowledging that “Yes, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead, too”), while the music helps to make the bleak second part more palatable to the audience. It is understandably more attractive to people familiar with the text of Hamlet, but the fluency of performance remains intact, so everybody can enjoy it.

The three actors, Giorgio Vierda, Alberto Ierardi and Adrian Hughes, play all the characters of the piece and are also listed as co-directors. While some of them are more at home in the comic, interactive segment of the show (Giorgio Vierda), and some in the musical department (Alberto Ierardi), it is understandable why Adrian Hughes is employed to deliver Hamlet’s soliloquies. Whatever the situation or the scene, they work well as a trio, as a duo or individually. Very much like the players visiting Elsinore, they both entertain and convey the message, and very much like Tom Stoppard’s players in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, they certainly manage to “transport you into the world of intrigue and illusion”.

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