The restrictions of the Avignon Off require an austerity that makes the most minimal work a monument of ambition. So, my incredulity at the proposition of a Hamlet, admittedly cut to a spry 2 and a quarter hours, could be excused. Nonetheless, Atelier Théâtre Actuel’s production, led by Grégori Baquet and directed by Xavier Lemaire, is a production of smart and scintillating sharp wit.
Highlights of this classic include Didier Niverd in the role of Polonius. I normally anticipate the death of this character with macabre joy. He's the anticipated first step to a blood bath. Niverd’s Polonius is a dotty, dimwitted delight. He is the kind of person one complains about until, once absent, they are profoundly missed. The newly married Gertrude and Claudius, here performed by Julie Delaurenti and Manuel Olinger, make for a fabulous power couple. The intrusion of the introspective and all to judgy Hamlet is very tangible. Lastly, as the title character, Grégori Baquet relishes in Shakespeare’s madcap wit. Rather than the slothy self-serious Hamlets I’ve seen on stage so often before, his Hamlet is silver tongued and unapologetic.
Things lose some of their mooring after Polonius’s death. This is no doubt found in the trimmed text. Thankfully, all synthesizes nicely in the final scene and Lemaire's staging becomes a wonderful introduction to the bard’s classic. Caroline Mexme’s scenography has negotiated Shakespeare’s epic world by shelving the action on two rustic faux-stone staircases. These staircases are manipulated by the actors to create multiple interior and exterior spaces. This scenography is both atmospheric and utilitarian. Costumes by Virgini H valiantly aim at a Game of Thrones aesthetic and lighting by Didier Brun beautifully assists in the somber atmosphere.
"Hamlet" can be seen at the Théâtre des Halles at 22:00