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Bondi Feast: “Håmlet” a new Australian play

"let’s genuinely cut it, live on stage ... with a shredder"

Antoinette Barbouttis hates Hamlet. What better reason to perform it?

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Company: Bondi Feast
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Bondi Feast: “Håmlet” a new australian play

Date: 26 Jun 2018

For the past eight months, I’ve publicly mocked The Bard.

It hasn’t always earned the warmest of responses.

There have been theatre colleagues who’ve taken personal offence to my “Ban Shakespeare” T-shirt.

Some responded negatively to a video edit where I enhanced an over-gesticulated performance of Hamlet by British actor Andrew Scott.

Then I ran into Rachel Chant, co-artistic director of Bondi Feast.

I was ranting about how I’d like to, some day, do a Shakespeare competition in the format of The Voice, but meanwhile I was going to pitch a show I wrote about Irukandji jellyfish to Bondi Feast.

“Pitch the Shakespeare,” she said.

Ok then. Hamlet. The biggest Trojan Horse of contemporary theatre. There have been five theatrical productions based in Sydney in the past five years. That’s more Hamlets than Australian Prime Ministers.

Incidentally, Hamlet comes second to Sherlock Holmes in the Guinness Book of World Records as the “Most Portrayed Literary Human Character in Film and TV” (48 times and counting).

In high school I played Ophelia. My pauses were so long the audience couldn’t tell if I was authentically mad or had forgotten my lines but I got a 10/10 for my efforts.

But in 2018, I’m no Ophelia. I’m Hamlet … and I hate Hamlet.

British director Peter Brook, an admirer and adaptor of Hamlet, once said of the play: “This is unbelievably boring, let’s cut it.”

So I thought, let’s genuinely cut it, live on stage … with a shredder.

Cut that is, all but one scene: Act II, Scene I.

It’s the real reason I hate Hamlet. He coercively drops his stockings and exposes his genitals to Ophelia while she’s sewing. He proceeds this with unwelcomed touching and a prolonged stare. How telling of our zeitgeist. I hope that this isn’t timeless. Let’s address it and move on.

I set out to write a comedy. Will the audience have a laugh?

I hope so, but in the same way we laugh at figures like Trump and Kim Jong-un. Theatrical traumas, sexist traumas, nightmares and truths – all staged, along with karaoke sing-a-longs, for your entertainment.

My hero Kanye West, among many other grandiose comparisons, has called himself “Shakespeare in the flesh”.

While I have no interest in his political alignment (and that Make America Great Again hat) and his bizarre “maga cap”antics, I have referred to more to him more than I have to the Bard.

I visit a progressive psychiatrist on a weekly basis. I am depressed. “Nihilistic depressed,” my psychiatrist says.

About four weeks ago, the world became a chasm, my moral state went into shell-shock. Had I applied the cheap methodology that Jarred Leto apparently used for his role as the The Joker while creating Hamlet? Nope. My serotonin levels were out as I tried a new anti-depressant – and with it the side effects.

But I think I’ll make an ace Hamlet.

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