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The Bacchanals present - HAMLET @ Zeal

The Bacchanals present

Wellington-based theatre company The Bacchanals will be performing Shakespeare’s most famous play in an unlikely venue during February and March as part of the 2002 Fringe Festival. The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark will be staged ZEAL located on Victoria Street opposite the library and central police station.

Carey Smith, whose previous roles with The Bacchanals have included Iago in Othello and the lead roles in Wealth and Hellbeing and The Jew of Malta, leads an international company of actors (for international read one American, one Canadian and a bunch of NZers!) including Bacchanals stalwarts Eve Middleton as Gertrude, Tina Helm as Ophelia, James Stewart as the Ghost and John Porter as Claudius. Only one play might seem like a step down from The Bacchanals’ mammoth trilogy of The Jew of Malta, Titus Andronicus and Volpone in August 2001, but every indication is that Hamlet will be their most ambitious project to date.

“Initially a revival of a three and a half hour long, 400-year old play with a huge cast might seem at odds with the traditional perceived image of Fringe, which is small cast-new work-under an hour,” says director David Lawrence. “But in most parts of the world ‘Fringe’ is a geographical rather than stylistic term. In London a Fringe venue is simply any theatre that isn’t in the West End. And in the Edinburgh Fringe there are almost as many productions of Shakespeare, Chekhov and Ibsen running as there are plays by new writers.” By this definition then, could one say that Wellington’s leading Fringe venue is not Bats but Circa Theatre, since every other theatre in town is situated on Courtney Place while Circa is out on the fringe of the city?

Rather than a fixed staging, The Bacchanals’ Hamlet will be a promenade production in the style of Jacqui Coats’ production of Martin Sherman’s Bent (Phoenix, 1997), David O’Donnell & Bronwyn Tweddle’s Coriolanus (Adam Art Gallery, 2001) and David Lawrence’s own production of The Mysteries (Studio 77, 1996). With five areas within the vast venue of ZEAL representing the different physical spaces of the play, the audience will be taken on a literal journey through the world of the play. “In every Bacchanals production we’ve tried to break down the invisible fourth wall and speak to the audience rather than at them,” says David. “In a promenade staging the audiences’ involvement becomes absolute.”

This will be the third time in two years that The Bacchanals have grappled with the world’s greatest playwright. Their October 2000 production of Othello with Taika Cohen in the title role got “everything that matters right” (Dominion) and showed a “thoroughly intelligent understanding” (NBR) of Shakespeare’s play. Their production of
Titus Andronicus, said the Dominion’s Timothy O’Brien, “would be worth seeing at five times the price”.
Hamlet, while remaining faithful to The Bacchanals’ commitment to textual fidelity, may contain a few surprises for those who think they know Shakespeare’s play – or how The Bacchanals always do Shakespeare.

Hamlet runs at ZEAL, 50 Victoria St, from Tuesday 19 February to Wednesday 13 March. There are no performances Thursdays or Fridays. Performances are at 7pm in the evenings and 2pm on Sunday afternoons. The production will run for approximately three hours thirty minutes.

All tickets are $11 ($10 for Fringe card holders) and can be booked through TICKETEK (04 384-34840 – transaction fee may apply).

A limited number of tickets for each performance are also available by emailing Further information on the production can be attained via this email address or by phoning (04) 386-3615

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