From 18 September, Southbank Centre welcomes The Tiger Lillies and Republique Theatre Company to the Queen Elizabeth Hall with their UK premiere of their ’Innovative, imaginative and incredible.’ ★★★★★ (Copenhagen Post) version of Hamlet.
Wendy Martin, Head of Performance and Dance and Southbank Centre put some questions to Martin Tulinius, Director of Hamlet and Artistic Director of Republique.
What attracted you to the idea of working with the Tiger Lillies?
When we decided to make Hamlet as a music theatre production, our first thought was to contact The Tiger Lillies. It seemed so obvious. Who are better to capture the strange ambiguous atmosphere that Hamlet possesses?
The way they are able to write beautiful songs in a poetic way about the dark side of human being is unique and something that suits the Hamlet universe very well. In other words the fragility and beauty in the human destruction. Who musically are better to grasp that, but The Tiger Lillies. The Tiger Lillies are the icon of dark, gothic music theatre and cabaret.
Why did you choose Hamlet as the vehicle for the collaboration?
Originally my first thought was to make King Lear. However with the idea in mind to contact The Tiger Lillies it very fast became clear to us, that Hamlet would match their music much better. The more we discussed which Shakespeare play we should decide, the more obvious Hamlet was to us. When I met Martyn Jaques in Prague to pitch the idea, he was almost instantly interested in the project. Their music combined with the artwork and contemporary style that Republique are known for – music, acting, visual and physical performance are integrated in the ways of storytelling – appealed very much to Martyn.
Can you talk about your approach to making the show and the form of the production you’ve created?
In this case we are far from the traditional text version. However I wanted to be true to the essence of Shakespeare´s Hamlet. The challenge was to capture this essence of the heavy and historically based story. We started by deciphering the text to its absolute core. Deviding the story into sequences, that represented the red line in the story. In this case less is more in the sense that we wanted to get into the head of Hamlet, more than keeping all the side stories in Hamlet. And through these sequences we created a Hamlet through words, music, physical theatre and visual tableaus. In some extend we are sensing Hamlet more than ’reading’ Hamlet, so to speak.
What further has been important to me, is to question the insanity of Hamlet. In most versions Hamlet is playing mad as an excuse to discover the truth. I wanted in an indirect way to question Hamlets insanity? In other words to question what is the truth? The truth is told by the eyes we look through. And in this case we see the story through Hamlets emotionally affected eyes. A Hamlet that’s very strongly filled up with anger and discontent. Is he able to see clear and is he really playing mad?
Martyn Jacques is such a strong presence on stage. What is the role of the Tiger Lillies songs in relation to Shakespeare’s text?
I saw from the beginning that Martyn was very connected to this project. Already two weeks after our meeting in Prague he send me 40 songs, which underlined to me that he psychologically was strongly involved in the story. It became very clear to me that The Tiger Lillies shouldn´t just be a band playing in the orchestra, but have an important role on stage. Martyn’s presence is so strong, that there’s no need to go against it. We embraced that involvement. Martyn is the story teller of this version. He´s the sprechtallsmeister the omniscient narrator. But he is also an animation of the figure Hamlet, representing his emotional deroute and his state of mind. The Adrians (Huges: drums/ Stout: bass) are like a greek chorus, participating, when its physical possible in different roles.
The cast includes some very fine actors and also artists with thrilling circus skills. Can you talk about the company and particularly the physical nature of the performances you have created with them?
I chose actors that are strong in text as well as in physical nature. It was of outmost importance since this performance is based on a music, that the actors were able to use their physical appearance to express the story and their emotional state of mind. When we lean so strongly towards the music, which is the primary narrative tool in this version, the actors need not only to be good text actors, but indeed to be able to express the story through their physical expression. As a director I´m very interested in using the body as a narrative tool, and to me I find it interesting to use different art expressions to tell the story. The relation between Hamlet and Ophelia is more present than in most versions. Since music and physical appearance is a strong tool to show emotions, it was important to create at stronger connection between these two characters than we normally experience in traditional text versions, which justifies her emotional deroute and suicide.
Finally how would you sum up for audiences what they might expect from your production of Hamlet?
I hope they are open for a new experience of Hamlet. A Hamlet that’s musically poetic, visual astonishing, physical breathtaking, talking rather to the heart than to the intellect of the spectator. And last but not least a contemporary philosophically different version of Hamlet, thats true towards the core of Shakespeares story, however presented in new and less text based way.
Catch The Tiger Lillies Perform Hamlet at Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall from 18 – 21 September. Get tickets here.
Filed under: Performance | Tagged: Hamlet, london, Performance, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Republique, southbank centre, The Tiger Lillies, theatre | Leave a Comment »