Performing Arts


OzAsia HamletPresented by Yohangza Theatre Company and the OzAsia Festival
Reviewed Friday 17th September 2010

Venue: Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre
Season: to Sat 18th September
Duration: 2hrs no interval

My evening began well before this performance, with Lee Hae-Kyung, a Korean Shaman, performing a ritual in Artspace to ensure the success of the Festival. Her ritual included dancing, singing, chanting and lots of percussion instruments as well as offerings of food to the audience. This was a fine lead in to the performance of Hamlet because this reinterpretation of Shakespeare’s play involves Shamanistic rituals. The Ghost of Hamlet’s father speaks to him through the Shamans, near the beginning of the play, and they also appear at various times throughout the play to carry out appropriate rituals, such as officiating at the deaths of Ophilia and of Hamlet. These rituals are explained in the programme notes.

Although the performance is in Korean there are English surtitles projected above the stage. The action is, however, very clearly conveyed by the actors and, if you know the general outline of the play, you will find that you do not need to follow the surtitles too closely.

The performance area, designed by Il-Jin Im, consists of large rectangle surrounded by a wide path of rice, flanked on either side of the stage by a row of percussion instruments. Most of the musical accompaniment is live, but with occasional recorded music as well. This large, open space allows ample room for the performance and, with only minimal props, concentrates the attention on the story and the performers. The costumes, of course, are stunning.

The performance itself was everything that I had expected, having seen their previous interpretation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Under the direction of Jung-Ung Yang Shakespeare’s play takes on new insights through this radically different approach and, with plenty of pace and energy, as well as some excellent performances, I could not have had a better start for the OzAsia Festival.

Jung-Yong Jeon if full of passion as Hamlet and Seung-Hae Nam is the most sensitive of Ophelias. Hae- Kyun Cheong and Eun-Hee Kim, as Claudius and Gertrude, give strong performances as the villains of the piece and Jin-Gon Kim and Woo-Keun Jung, as father and son, Polonius and Laertes, bring depth to their performances and Sang-Bo Kim, as Horatio, displays great friendship for Hamlet, convincing in his desire to die with him.

The original ideas, fresh approach and superb performances make this a very special evening of theatre.

Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Arts Editor, Glam Adelaide.

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