Hamlet by artists with Down syndrome: a reread full of beauty and happiness
– From Santos, Brazil. In the VI edition of MIRADA, the theater festival of Latin America, Portugal and Spain, the presentation of Hamlet in a version at Teatro La Plaza in Lima (Peru), adapted and directed by ferrari forehead. Four years ago, at the last edition, the band rocked the festival with their a lot of noise for nothing, in which all the roles were played by men: he was not just looking for a comedic step in the key of gender confusion, but to take advantage of the empathy that the piece offers between the audience and the characters to intervene in the debate about same-sex marriage. The impeccable and strict setting on Shakespeare’s text allowed the director to save the keys that particularly interested her.
In that Hamlet that bet seems to be multiplying. Not only because it is one of the most famous texts in universal theatre, but also because it is performed by artists with Down syndrome. ferrari forehead proposes to understand how a set of relations, questions and own discourse about theatricality emerges in this much-visited textuality. In doing so, he places the voice of actresses and actors in relation to their collective history, their place in the world, and their own questions and personal dreams. Therefore, for those who might/might have preconceptions about a generous but paternalistic gesture, the presentation swept them away and showed us Hamlet it’s worth enjoying for its intelligence, original even from the rigors of the adaptation.
In this work, the group confronts us with an almost unexpected turn in favor of rights and differences. All performers, people with Down syndrome, are Hamlet. This is not unimportant, because by embodying the Danish prince at different times, they explore the construction of the character in relation to what they have to say.
The first arises in an almost obvious way and also from an unexpected place. Who is Hamlet? they wonder in a dramatic play where they work on the relationship between actor and character. Jaime, one of the main characters, will claim to be Jaimelet and argue, as Hamlet does in the original text, that there are not so many differences between comedy and real life. The movement of this response is seen in the first shot in the palace: what Gertrude and her counselor Polonio are trying to analyze is whether Hamlet is mad, stupid or does not understand what they are talking about. Actresses and actors had revealed their shortcomings and difficulties, and with the text of Shakespeare they can talk about how they are seen by others. With a stroke of the pen, they deromanticized the staging and brought another understanding to the proposition.
They and they find their voice in Hamlet and everything takes on another meaning. However, Ophelia is also seen with a depth not always found in traditional productions. Using the textuality of the work, the father’s voice no longer appears as a look at a naive young woman, but as a bitter reproach for what he cannot do, what he can never be. This Polonio, a cruel, man of authority, disciplining his daughter and son, was created from a place that was almost never worked. All in all, he is a poor man, amusing and subservient to the queen and king. Here it is the father who tells his daughter that she will not be able to have a relationship with Hamlet, that she will always be a child, that she will never grow up. The word of the father is the word of power, the power that in the work of William Shakespeare always present. But power is also an external tool for artists’ lives. A government that, as Jaime explains at the beginning, does not recognize the rights of people with Down syndrome. And if he recognizes them, he does it late and badly. Should Polonius have conceded his daughter’s wish?
Opening a way for this debate, in a very beautiful scene ferrari forehead He does something you don’t see very often. Hamlet and Ophelia kiss, they have a moment of physical, romantic love. Despite those looks that exclude them from the possibility of love, eroticism, intimacy, they really love each other. A love that mother and father seem to think they are incapable of. Once again, plot allows us to recover a dimension of reality from the bodies of those who act. This connection between the body of the actors and the emergence of reality, not conceived as naturalism, is one of the main forms of theatricality. In this construction, the different lines of meaning of the work are supported.
From father and son, this tragedy has many, and here is another one of the axes that are worked on in this dialectic hero-protagonist from the adaptation of the dramatic text. We have said that it is important for everyone to be Hamlet because Hamlet is the son who cannot, dare not, or has no weapons to follow the father’s command. This is one of the points: the doubt with which the character develops and which culminates in the famous monologue is the doubt that each of them has about the possibility of fulfilling this mandate that society, family, and why not parents, each claims. “Follow my heritage,” King Hamlet tells the young prince. What if I can’t? – he constantly asks himself. Will we be able to? the main characters wonder about their own mandates or dreams.
The monologue, which in 1603 prefigures the Cartesian subject, is central here because it evokes, from the work on the text, at least several interesting readings. Doubt arises how to say this monologue? how to act? This question is also a question of the actor’s duty – something that the actor himself asks Shakespeare at some point in the work. Can Jaime do it like Laurence Oliver? SHOULD Jaime do it like Laurence Olivier? Is there a code that cannot be changed? This came up in the group and they were the ones who found the answer. What is important is why this text is accepted and from where it is made. So “To be or not to be,” accepting one’s place and destiny and not deciding to kill oneself even though the father’s mandate cannot be fulfilled, takes on an unusual meaning here. And for that reason, every single actor says part of the monologue at some point. Because they speak it as Hamlet speaks it.
Another valuable look is the one that begins with the way Ophelia’s death is included. In this picture, the director again turns to beauty. And the questions that remain. Is it suicide? Why did he kill himself? Perhaps it is not because of the unrequited love for Hamlet – Polonius’ death is avoided here – but it is possible because of the contempt he shows for his daughter as a person and the prohibition of love with the prince.
It wasn’t a whim ferrari forehead staged a famous play performed by people with Down syndrome. This was the new understanding of the text, developed through great theatrical work, with actors and actresses of remarkable dimension, able to deal dramatically with their talent and difficulties as few can, especially without trying to hide the latter. Even speech impediments end up being included as dramatic operations and viewers enter an unpredictable code. The work of the actresses and actors is tailored to the dramatic register they offer. The humor, which turns very sour on the “neurotypical” audience, is managed with a remarkable sense of rhythm and occasion.
Finally, when it all ends with the voice-over of Fortimbras taking the vacant seat of King of Denmark after Hamlet, Claudio, Gertrude and Laertes die, the actresses and actors dance and sing to a lively punk tune. , a text that says “I’m not like others”. And they invite the audience to dance on stage to share their joy. They found their independent voice in the theater and managed to make Hamlet charming. Of course I ended up with them and them dancing on stage. Not only to share his joy, but to express mine, intimate and personal, knowing that Hamlet continues to have new readings, new people who can take on his voice, and that he continues to serve us as he did in the early 17th century , to think the object and its desire. And how mandates, power, and order seek to limit them.