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William Shakespeare had one son. He named him Hamnet. Shakespeare then left home to pursue his career in the theatre, effectively abandoning his family. In 1596, he was told that the boy – who was then eleven years old – was seriously ill. By the time Shakespeare returned home, Hamnet had died. In 1599, Shakespeare wrote a play called Hamlet.
Hamnet is too young to understand Shakespeare. And he is one letter away from being a great man. We are too old to understand Hamnet. We meet in the middle, in a theatre.
From the makers of the multi award-winning productions LIPPY and Chekhov’s First Play (both seen at Brisbane Festival in 2016), Hamnet is a solo work for an 11-year-old boy. Using live video and dead video, Dead Centre attempts to bridge the gap between two generations.
SEE MORE. HEAR MORE. SPEAK MORE.
From David Berthold, Brisbane Festival Artistic Director
Illustration: Shakespeare with family, Hamnet is behind him on the left; his two daughters Susanna and Judith are on the right and left of him; His wife, Anne Hathaway, is sitting in the chair on the right.
Dead Centre is one of the most alive and alert theatre companies in the world right now. I was so taken with them a couple of years ago that we welcomed them with three productions in 2016 – Chekhov’s First Play, LIPPY and Souvenir. We had to have them back. And Hamnet is a stunner.
This Irish company approaches so-called ‘great’ works from the live edges, not the dead centre. So they make the familiar fresh, but in a way (and I think this is one of their triumphs) that is utterly in the spirit of the canonical author. Hamnet, about Shakespeare’s son who died at 11, shares all the themes and concerns of Hamlet, but in a startling way. Hamnet carries with him all of Hamlet’s insecurities, but in a way that marks him as the most familiar of boys. After all, only one letter separates the famous from the forgotten.
In Hamnet, a boy of 11 stands on a stage in front of a large screen. He’s alone. He has lost his father and is in limbo. He can’t grow any older. “I’m not supposed to talk to strangers,” he says to us, “but how else am I going to find my Dad”? He drops his backpack and begins his story as the estranged son of a famous playwright. He wrestles with a great man he barely knew and a father he needs to know. A son who also needs his father to know him.
I’ve seen few shows that use technology as seamlessly, and as movingly, as Hamnet. The use of live and ‘dead‘ video is magical. It is a player in what is otherwise a solo work for an 11-year-old actor – the superb Aran Murphy – and one that I know will touch anyone who has dealt with fathers, sons and that pull to make a mark in the world.
Cast & creatives
Performed by Aran Murphy
Set Design Andrew Clancy
Costumes and Effects Grace O'Hara
Light Stephen Dodd
Sound Design Kevin Gleeson
Video Design Jose Miguel Jimenez
Choreography Liv O'Donoghue
Stage Manager Barbara Hughes
Production Manager Nicholas Ree
Dramaturg Michael West
Producer Aisling Ormonde
Direction Bush Moukarzel and Ben Kidd
Assistant Director Nora Kelly Leister
Text by William Shakespeare, Bush Moukarzel and Ben Kidd
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Brisbane Times Festival Conversations after performance - Tue 11 Sept
AUSLAN interpreted performance - Tue 11 Sept
Corner Grey and Melbourne Streets
Queensland Performing Arts Centre
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