Review - Hamlet, Schaubune Berlin @ Barbican

There is so much to say about this production. I had high hopes, having read at length about Thomas Ostermeier's work, and his penchant for tearing apart then sewing back together canonical texts. This afternoon was in no way a disappointment. His vision of the Danish castle as a gauche, messy, single room was pitch perfect; the set was at once beautiful and ugly, with gold chain curtains and flashy lights, actors in tuxedos juxtaposed against dirt covering the first quarter of the stage, and an increasing amount of mess (literally garbage!) littering the stage as the play went on. The actors, too, began beautiful and we saw them fall apart. Images of consumption were highlighted quite forcibly, with not only the actors being consumed (by guilt, by revenge, etc) but many scenes of actual consumption of water, beer, milk, liquid that looks like blood. The very first introduction to Horatio was with him sitting at the table, eating voraciously, with food all over his face. This symbolic representation of the characters' devolution was quite stunning.

The performances were remarkable: Hamlet (Lars Eidinger) was not the beautiful, brooding Danish prince we have come to expect, but rather a spoiled, overweight, moody brat, forcing his video camera into the faces of his family (and at times even the audience). Gertrude and Ophelia were played by the completely fabulous Judith Rosmair, who played the two women differently and yet the same, characterizing the echoes of these two women so central to Hamlet's life in one another. Her physical work both in the transitions from Gertrude to Ophelia and back, and more specifically in Ophelia's madness was completely transfixing; I couldn't stop watching her remarkable and specific movements and vocalizations. The other four (that's right, only 4) actors were fabulous as well, playing Laertes/Rosencrantz in the same actor and Horatio/Guildenstern as one, along with an actor for Polonius and one for Claudius.

What I found most fabulous was the self-awareness of the production, finding moments to highlight Hamlet's jester-like qualities, coming out to the audience, turning the play into a black comedy. And it did not feel in any way was all those things that flash through your mind reading the play, brought brilliantly to light.

Fabulous. I must try to visit Schaubune when I go to Berlin...and hopefully manage to catch their Measure for Measure in Paris. More!! I want more!!!!!