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What we mean when we dream about Hamlet

Wooster Group’s Hamlet

Kills me I’m going to miss this. From what I hear, it’s sold out even though the run was extended two weeks. It’s the Wooster Group’s Hamlet at the Public Theater in New York. The piece was performed last year in Barcelona. Elizabeth LaCompte calls it an archeological excursion into the film version of Hamlet starring Richard Burton.

The Wooster Group’s Hamlet continues their experiment with what counts as a source text in the theater. They may have done this with other pieces, but the last performance I saw was “Poor Theater,” based on the work of Jerzy Grotowski. Generally plays are created based on scripts, the work of playwrights. The Wooster Group has created performance pieces based on movies, documentary film, a series of still photos or stories they’ve heard. This Hamlet is based on the film, not the playscript. To some extent performances are always based on previous performances, in addition to the script.

Hamlet holds a unique place in English language theater, it’s a difficult role, usually tackled by our finest actors. A constellation of images, sounds, faces, voices and souls orbit around the playscript. There’s no finer experience in the theater than watching the Wooster Group perform Hamlet, and showing us what we mean when we dream about Hamlet.

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