The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark
by A Poor Theatre Company
Shot over 38 hours in and around Melbourne’s CBD in the dead dark of night, A Poor Theatre’s film adaptation of Hamlet has been generating some fierce word-of-mouth, and with good reason. It is a triumph, an electric jolt of unrelenting energy and daring.
Filmed entirely on a single hand-held camera and heavily abridged, the performances contained within its lean 2 hour length have all the meat one could ask for. An excellent ensemble cast has been assembled, all assured in their command of the language and vividly real, and Richard Pyros as Hamlet is a fury of laughing, wide-eyed wit and withering acidity, his unstoppable trajectory powered by an intellect as dangerous as it is intoxicating. Oscar Redding has captured a roving, dynamic arc through this most familiar tale by pruning the text of all but its essential tragedy, and in doing so has made some interpretative decisions that will alienate some, but be embraced by others. Gone is the larger political context, and Ophelia’s descent into madness is greatly reduced; but the net effect is one of cumulative shock, with the rendering of Horatio as hand-puppet to Hamlet and the murder of Polonious in particular giving the film the raw potency of a full-blown psychosis. Indeed, the stabbing of Polonious and its aftermath reaches into the realm of pure horror in its intensity, and is an unforgettable cinematic nightmare.
The dangers of attempting a contemporary rendering of such a work is evident. As Geoffrey Wright learned with his recent Macbeth, near enough just ain’t good enough when it comes to the Bard, yet Shakespeare is one of those writers who, in the hands of the skilled, unfailingly presents new vistas with each revisiting – and this micro-budget rendition, despite all its textual cutting and the roughness of its craft, gives a new and invigorating take on one of the jewels in the crown of the Western canon. It is perhaps the most intriguing Hamlet committed to film, and deserves to earn A Poor Theatre a million bucks.