Last weekend, at the Arkhangelsk Drama Theater, we had the premiere of a new play by Andrei Timoshenko — “Hamlet”, which opened the 87th theater season. At a press conference on the occasion of the opening of the season, the theater’s chief director Andrei Timoshenko noted that “any production of Hamlet in any city, in any country entails a series of scandals, admiration, rejection, debate – and this is normal, we are ready for this”. Let’s see why the director turned out to be right about rejection and disputes of this particular production.

For a long time, the theater broadcasted two things through all kinds of media: real sword fights and a huge pool on the stage, which, if leaked, can ruin all the expensive equipment under the stage. There was a feeling that the characters of the performance would only fight on swords and swim in the pool. It turned out to be a little bit different.

When you enter into the hall, first of all, you pay attention to the scenery – you want to see the famous pool! As a result, it merges with the blackness of the scene, which is why it loses its grandeur and is not immediately noticeable. The pool is surrounded by at least three meters high wooden “fence”. Behind it are metal three-level scaffolds on which you can see armed gilded soldiers. Approaching my place in the second row, I felt two things: how cool the air was from the pool (as it turned out later, the water was not heated, it was icy) and how the scenery literally crushed the viewer from a height. If it weren’t for the soldiers in the woods, I would have thought that the Hamlet had moved to a post-apocalyptic time.

The costume of Hamlet himself continued my reflections on the post-apocalypse: a torn T-shirt and a near-Gothic jacket, narrowed down pants and high military style over-the-knee boots – all in black. Seeing the clothes of other characters, I remembered the dark series of the last season of the TV-series “Game of Thrones”, in which there was no hope or even a ray of light. The costumes of Horatio and Polonuis are most similar to the standards of medieval fashion. Ophelia looks a little ridiculous and vulgar in a black and emerald ultra-short dress. These costumes are strongly knocked out of the associative rows of TV-series and post-apocalyptic time.

“Big thoughts of doubt” appear when at the beginning of the play the characters fenced for about ten minutes: it seemed that they had been training for this action for so long and hard, but in reality the process does not attract lightning and an abundance of movements, interesting attacks, but on the contrary it becomes boring from the slowness and relaxation of the battle. The situation is repeated at the end of the play during the fight between Hamlet and Laertes. It becomes boring not only from these two battles, but also the actors playing in general.

Emotionally, the whole performance is drawn by Ivan Bratushev (Hamlet) – he is one of the many actors involved in the performance who really tries to feel the complex nature of his character. Mikhail Kuzmin (Horatio) was unexpectedly surprised by his neutrality and outright indifference to his role. The character of Natalia Latukhina (Gertrude) dies suspiciously long and not effectively from wine poisoning at the end of the performance. The sufferings of Tatyana Serdotetskaya (Ophelia) are no different from her sufferings in the play “The Three Sisters”, the premiere of theatre’s last season; we would like to sympathize her in this production, but we cannot. It is even impossible at the moment when, according to the director’s decision, a group of soldiers rapes the girl before drowning her — rather, there is disgust and horror from the scene, as well as a misunderstanding: why did the director use figurative methods of designating sexual relations of characters in the same play before, but in the end — so realistic and exaggerated inserts an episode of rape? Why is the performance rated to 16+?

Speaking of realism, the awkward and out of place fragments of the performance are immediately remembered when the characters try to communicate with the audience and pay attention to it. These are so rare episodes among the “play among themselves, actors” that their modernized jokes based on the Shakespearean play look curious.

The accents placed by Tymoshenko, in my opinion, derive this statement from the variety raised by William Shakespeare in one problem – the family crisis or family relationships. In this version of “Hamlet”, all misfortunes happen only because Gertrude marries Claudius, whom Hamlet does not bear to the spirit, as is often the case in real life between teenagers sons and their stepfathers. But Shakespeare, even if we depart from his classical interpretation, puts so much character, strength and significance in each character of the play that the multi-level problems, that appear on their own, must not suffer a decrease or even disappearance from our attention.

Photography: Ekaterina Chaschina

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