All at sea with the Bard

Marcel Meyer in the title role in the acclaimed Abrahamse & Meyer production of Hamlet, to be staged at Montecasino’s Pieter Toerien Theatre from May 3 to 21. Picture by Fiona MacPherson.

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BY BILLY SUTER

A NOVEL Shakespearian production hailed as a multi-sensory experience imbued with wonder and daring, and also labelled as modern, exciting and topical, is headed for Johannesburg in May before a season in America.

It is the internationally acclaimed Abrahamse & Meyer production of Hamlet, to be staged at Montecasino’s Pieter Toerien Theatre from May 3 to 21 before performances at La MaMa in New York in September.

After playing to rave reviews and standing ovations at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, and also proving successful in Europe, the play is being presented by Pieter Toerien.

The Abrahamse & Meyer production takes its inspiration from one of the earliest recorded performances of Hamlet during Shakespeare’s lifetime.

In 1608, off the East Coast of South Africa, the crew of the East India Ship, Red Dragon, performed Hamlet aboard their ship.

“In his log, on March 31, 1608, Captain Keeling noted: ‘[I invited Captain Hawkins to a fish dinner, and had Hamlet acted aboard, which I permit to keep my people from idleness and unlawful games or sleep’,” says a spokesman.

This production of Hamlet re-imagines Shakespeare’s most iconic play within the context of the historic 1608 performance aboard The Red Dragon as a play within a play, using a cast of only six actors playing six Jacobean sailors who, in turn, play all the parts in Hamlet.

The production stars Marcel Meyer in the title role, with veteran Shakespearean actor, Michael Richard, in the role of King Claudius.

Dean Balie doubles as Polonius and Horatio with Jeremy Richard as Laertes, Matthew Baldwin as Ophelia and Callum Tilbury in the role of Queen Gertrude.

“The production is directed by Fred Abrahamse who has, over a 35-year career, directed more thanr150 productions in all genres, including classical theatre, opera, musical theatre and contemporary plays.

“One of Abrahamse’s most recent local successes was a sell-out season of Tennessee Williams’s The Hotel Plays at the Vineyard Hotel in Newlands.”

Over the last five years Abrahamse & Meyer Productions have produced some of the most successful Shakespeare productions in South Africa, among them the award-winning three-man Tragedy of Richard III (2010 and 2011), a four-man Romeo and Juliet (2011) and the popular Maynardville productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2013) and Othello (2015 and 2016).

These have been presented in 20 different seasons on two continents,  in three provinces and six cities,and have proved immensely popular with the public, critics, teachers and students.”

They have collectively garnered 13 Fleur du Cap Theatre Award nominations over the years.

Performances of Hamlet in Johannesburg will be at 8pm Wednesday to Saturday, as well as at 3pm on Wednesdays, 4pm on Saturday and 3pm on Sunday.


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