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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Hamlet

The question is no longer whether “to be or not to be,” it is how “to be” when we must live with the consequences.
By Hilary Simmons
April 08, 2011
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By Hilary Simmons
April 08, 2011
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Let's get this straight. Hamlet is, in fact, a princess who may or may not be gay. Her passion for Ophelia may or may not be physical — it could simply exemplify the pleasures and perils of girls' friendships. Hamlet may or may not be descending into madness — or just waxing depressed. Lacking parental permission to speak the truth — or cultural consent to acknowledge conflict — she must resort to covert looks and contrived conduct to express her turbulent feelings. The question of whether "to be or not to be" is not a gender specific question; acting with courage and conviction is crazily complicated when you're a privileged but essentially powerless teenager.  

The question is no longer whether “to be or not to be,” it is how “to be” when we must live with the consequences. Hamlet, Ophelia, Horatio, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are adolescents coming to terms with the depressing realisation that society is just as corrupt, venal, mendacious and shallow as it was when Shakespeare wrote his great tragedies over four hundred years ago. They are disillusioned and given to existential self-interrogation, pondering cause and consequence, the blurred penumbra of moral ambiguity. Naomi Edwards' great accomplishment as director is to take this familiar milieu and reinvent it into a play that is compulsively watchable.  

The easy adage that the need for reflection conflicts with the impulse to act is illuminated with new meaning as Hamlet desperately tries to understand the adult world of pragmatism versus ethics. Hamlet sometimes seems less introspective about her failure to kill Claudius than about her failure to take her own life. It’s a funny, angry, moving performance from the versatile Sophie Ross that is as entertaining as it is thought-provoking. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern provide the much needed tomfoolery and dirty innuendo to lighten up the extremity of her angst. Hamlet's tragedy centres on her inability to reconcile rationalism and faith with politics and personal principles.

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