Lepage & Côté’s Hamlet Dazzles With Dance And Stagecraft With out Saying Something New

Dancer Carleen Zouboulas and company in The Tragedy of Hamlet (Photo: Stéphane Bourgeois)
Carleen Zouboulas and firm in The Tragedy of Hamlet (Photograph: Stéphane Bourgeois)

Ex Machina, Côté Danse & Dvoretsky Productions/The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, designed and directed by Robert Lepage, co-designed and choreographed by Guillaume Côté, Elgin Theatre, closes April 7. Get tickets right here.

On the finish of The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, the viewers erupted right into a standing ovation and extended applause, even persevering with to clap after the curtain fell, however, alas, I used to be not among the many fanatics. For me, this much-anticipated dance drama got here up brief.

I sincerely hope that the ardent opening evening response was not simply from buddies, and that this formidable present will discover its viewers. I want it effectively, however there isn’t any getting round the truth that for some cognoscenti, comparable to myself, this dance-through Hamlet might be a disappointment. Thus, I concede that this evaluate, judging from the rapturous opening evening response, is a minority report.

The co-creators of Hamlet, Robert Lepage and Guillaume Côté, are Canadian arts royalty. Director Lepage is a theatre visionary, whereas Côté is a much-acclaimed dancer/choreographer. Body by Body, the piece they created for the Nationwide Ballet of Canada in 2018 as a homage to movie innovator Norman McLaren, was a sensational mixing of reside motion and excessive tech imagery. In any case, Lepage is taken into account a expertise guru all through the world.

For this dance drama, nonetheless, Lepage opted to go low tech, that means, to make the most of the fundamental naked requirements of theatre, which incorporates units, costumes, lighting, and visible results crafted by human fingers. The dance itself, the choreography, was meant to be entrance and centre, and it actually is.

Over many scenes, the 9 dancers inform the simple story of Hamlet as Shakespeare wrote it, with some minor modifications. If Lepage and Côté needed to make some new assertion on the character of Hamlet, or shed recent insights on the play, that doesn’t occur. This dance drama is a traditional therapy of the fabric.

Côté’s choreography could be very clear in depicting character and motion, and for that, he ought to be counseled. Even individuals who don’t know the plot of Hamlet will simply comply with the storyline. There are additionally some cryptic surtitles that give quotes from the textual content, which additionally assist set the scene, though some are very cheeky. Simply earlier than Hamlet confronts the ghost of his father, the surtitle reads: “One thing is rotten in Denmark.”

A scene from the ballet, The Tragedy of Hamlet (Photo: Stéphane Bourgeois)
A scene from The Tragedy of Hamlet (Photograph: Stéphane Bourgeois)

The issue with Côté’s motion is that it breaks no new obstacles in dance. What seems on stage is an incarnation of the ballet you already know and love, blended, at occasions, with different dance kinds. The steps are effectively put collectively, and engaging to have a look at. Nonetheless, whereas the boys show gymnastic virtuosity and the ladies exhibit elegant grace, I have to use the phrase typical once more. We aren’t seeing something actually new by way of innovative choreography.

To Côté’s credit score, he needed to provide you with a slew of various pas de deux, matched to character — Hamlet and Horatio, Hamlet and Ophelia, Claudius and Gertrude, Ophelia and Laertes, Ophelia and Polonius, Hamlet and Gertrude — and he did. All of them include severe partnering, together with lifts, and are showy sufficient, however what I believe I’m making an attempt to say right here, is, that they lack pleasure. In actual fact, the entire dance drama lacks pleasure.

The motion unfolds, a narrative is instructed, however the drama doesn’t interact on any emotional degree. As an viewers member, I used to be a mere observer who was by no means invested within the plight of the characters.

There may be, nonetheless, a lot to suggest concerning the manufacturing by way of design, for which each Lepage and Côté are credited as co-creators. Scenically, this Hamlet is sort of stunning.

The stage is swathed in crimson velvet drapes, a few of which may transfer round and alter form. The three chandeliers bathe the stage in a heat golden glow which evokes previous occasions, courtesy of lighting maven Simon Rossiter. There are wood platforms that, on this low tech world, break aside or come collectively to rework into tables, desks, beds, coffins, and the like, however with every iteration, they’ve a regal air about them. Even the chairs forged a palatial aura, lined as they’re in plush upholstery.

In different phrases, there’s a luxurious veneer over every thing, and this consists of the completely attractive costumes by Michael Gianfrancesco and Monika Onoszko. The materials are wealthy in texture, whether or not it’s Hamlet’s black, skin-tight physique swimsuit and boots, or Gertrude’s ornate interval robes. When it comes to manufacturing values, this present is a category act.

One other large plus is composer John Gzowski’s magnificent authentic rating that might stand by itself as a splendidly evocative piece of music.

Every scene has an figuring out melody utilizing totally different combos of devices, though the cello predominates. There doesn’t appear to be any repeats. Every vignette is musically distinctive, working the gamut from baroque dance music celebrating the union of Claudius and Gertrude, to underlining the reflective solos given to nearly each one of many characters. Whether or not the playful excessive jinks of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, or the percussive rigidity of the Hamlet/Laertes duel, Gzowski’s rating matches the dance like hand to glove.

This Hamlet additionally showcases some dazzling stage imagery, however for some motive, it didn’t really feel prefer it was sufficient to provide this manufacturing actual pizazz. Maybe, as a result of it was Lepage who was a creator, I needed extra. Nonetheless, when one in every of these imaginative visible results does join, it’s nice theatre.

Take for instance Ophelia’s drowning scene. The dancer is positioned towards a rippling, powder blue fabric, and unseen fingers from behind the scenes, raise her within the air so it appears to be like like she is definitely within the water.

Then there’s the Ghost’s description of his homicide, which is cleverly carried out as silhouettes behind a mattress sheet. As for the play that may catch the conscience of the king? Missing a troupe of actors, Hamlet and Horatio carry out the homicide of Hamlet’s father utilizing masks, however the kicker is, the faces are on the again of their heads so they’re really dancing backwards.

Dancers Greta Hodgkinson and Lukas Malkowski in The Tragedy of Hamlet (Photo Francois Latulippe)
Greta Hodgkinson and Lukas Malkowski in The Tragedy of Hamlet (Photograph Francois Latulippe)

Total, I really feel that the present wants extra of those eye candies to offset the dance. In actual fact, as foolish because it sounds, this dance drama has too many moments of pure dance.

There may be additionally a structural drawback. To permit for set adjustments, the principle curtain closes, and Côté has supplied choreography in entrance as a canopy. Whereas the state of affairs of the motion is at all times logical, for instance, Hamlet going off to England with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, after a time, the repetitive opening and shutting of the curtain turns into routine. Curtain shut, equals, entrance of curtain motion. There isn’t a change-up in format to alleviate the predictability issue, and so the dramatic backbone of the present falls flat.

After which there may be the very odd ending, with Horatio, the one survivor, performing an angst-ridden solo in silence after Hamlet’s dying. It simply doesn’t really feel proper. What sort of assertion is that this solo making in relation to the play? Admittedly, Shakespeare didn’t finish with Hamlet’s dying both, however whereas Prince Fortinbras’ arrival is in some way acceptable within the authentic, this ending simply doesn’t work for me.

On a happier notice, this present is bursting with expertise. Your complete forged is beautifully gifted whereas being age acceptable. There may be some depraved dancing being carried out by an organization that may additionally act up a storm. It’s within the high quality of the ensemble, the place this dance drama finds its biggest success.

Côté forged himself as Hamlet, however though he’s 41, he can nonetheless toss off bravado dance strikes. He’s additionally very good-looking and appears each inch a prince. The one factor I didn’t get from him was insanity, though Côté projected Hamlet’s many moods very effectively, alongside along with his differing relationships with varied characters.

Casting a girl, the formidable dance wizard Natasha Poon Woo, as Hamlet’s buddy Horatio, was a stroke of genius, her being a softer, extra cheery foil for the morose Hamlet. She can also be in a position to execute lightning quick, energetic motion in distinction to Hamlet’s extra introspective nature. Poon Woo is an excellent dance interpreter.

The good Greta Hodgkinson, late of the Nationwide Ballet, and the equally nice Robert Glumbek of ProArteDanza, give excellent performances as Gertrude and Claudius. Each are 50, however nonetheless transfer with acknowledged magnificence. As effectively, they each are able to producing severe dancing, together with radiating vivid character portrayals. The lustful chemistry between the 2 of them was palpable.

The Polonius household is headed by 70-year-old Bernard Meney, who’s suitably fussy and bureaucratic, however loving along with his youngsters. Carleen Zouboules, who’s a consummate ballerina, introduced Ophelia as a fragile susceptible flower, whereas Lukas Malkowski as Laertes is solely an outstanding dancer and a virtuoso of motion.

As for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Connor Mitton and Willem Sadler, respectively, carry out their lighter roles with an lively aptitude and devil-may-care angle. Côté’s choreography for them is paying homage to the jolly ensembles for Romeo, Mercutio and Benvolio in varied Romeo and Juliet ballets. Like Malkowski, they show approach up the whazoo.

As I stated earlier than, I would like folks to embrace this present, and I believe they are going to, as a result of it appears to be like good and tells its story effectively. Alas, for me, this Hamlet didn’t meet my expectations, however then, I’m not most of the people.

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Paula Citron
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