On stage again, ‘Hamlet’ gets new spiritual father

One of this season’s most important theatrical events is taking place in Patras, where the local Municipal Regional Theater is staging William Shakespeare’s «Hamlet» (to January 25). The production is directed by Maya Lyberopoulou and features a woman – Karyofillia Karabeti – in the title role. This is the second production of this play currently in Greece, following from the National Theater’s production, directed by Michalis Cacoyiannis and starring Constantinos Markoulakis. «It is a very progressive play,» said Lyberopoulou in a recent interview. «Even pioneering, if you consider that the playwright, a man of the 1600s, speaks directly of the theater in 4,000 verses and completely dispels the illusion of theater. Our production does not focus so much on the ‘tragedy of vengeance’ as it does on the themes of theater and acting. It could easily have been titled ‘The Rehearsal’ or ‘Thespian Voices.’ I also believe that Hamlet’s real spiritual father was not his biological father, or his uncle or mother. I believe it was Yorick, the court jester. This was the person with whom he grew up.» This very particular approach to the play defined Lyberopoulou’s directorial reworking of the original, as did the translation she used, by Giorgos Heimonas, which, she says, «reveals the play’s poetic dimension.» Lyberopoulou has also incorporated snippets from other plays, a surprising move. «Just a few things have been added. In contrast, during the reworking, many of the subplots were taken out, leaving only the essentials. The performance is under two hours long, but very quick-paced. We just added two very small segments: about 20 verses from Heiner Mueller’s ‘Hamletmachine’ and an equally small bit from Stoppard’s ‘Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.’ We wanted to include something which would highlight that this play is great because it is ageless. Each era is mirrored in it. Even ours, of course. The play does not just examine the mystery of man, of life, but it refers, actually insists, on theater and the crisis of theater,» argues the director. The play’s staging is sparse. Actually, it is Lyberopoulou’s least complex in terms of stage design. There are no sets, just a few props, designed by Eva Nathena. «I became pretty fed up with these performances that confuse theater with spectacle,» she explains. «We tried to put on a performance that went beyond the spectacle. The point – and all the actors embraced it readily – was to give the prose a sense of depth that is lacking in today’s theater… Without frills. The roles in Hamlet are mainly roles with a linguistic substance – let us not forget that it was the first play to attempt a representation of an identity.» Lyberopoulou’s casting of an actress in the lead is a surprising choice, which, she argues, was determined by Karabeti entirely. «I think that there are very few actors around who could play Hamlet – Karyofillia (Karabeti), Markoulakis, that’s about it.» The rest of the cast comprises Vicky Volioti, Giorgos Pyrpassopoulos, Thodoros Katsafados, Yianna Nikolopoulou, Yiannis Harissis and Periklis Vassilopoulos. «They agreed to take on, in good faith, an extremely difficult task. They know that this is a play which puts the actor on the pedestal,» says Lyberopoulou. «It is not that difficult to find great plays, important roles, good directors and excellent actors. But a play which so idolizes the actors and reminds them that they have absolute power on the stage is not that easy to come by.»

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