Raw and thrillingly elemental production indeed

Hamlet: Precariously imminent is a war. Nervous, the sentries and liegemen to the Dane stand guard at the Castle of Elsinore. It is midnight and so bitterly cold that it sickens the heart. Yes, something is utterly rotten in the state of Denmark.

London’s Globe Theatre brought HAMLET – The Prince of Denmark, the longest and the most inexhaustible play, to Thimphu yesterday. The open-air theatre at the Royal University of Bhutan was the most authentic and the professional actors delivered one of the most eminent performances.

Lovers of Shakespeare, old and young, celebrated the arrival of the bard who was banished effectively from school syllabus not so long ago because the bard, some said, was the bane. Old faithful warned that deporting Shakespeare from classrooms would cause irreparable damage to the learning of English. But the Bard of Avon had to go.

As the actors played their part beautifully and eminently professionally, the audience were compelled to ask whether Shakespeare had indeed lost relevance. The problem could have been that his plays, which were meant to be acted, were instead read. For how could Ladi Emeruwa’s confusing state speak more directly and appropriately of our young people?

To be, or not to be: that is the question. Indeed. This is perhaps the most urgent lesson that young people of this country need to take home. Like Hamlet, tangled and angry, children today increasingly find themselves asking the same questions – Whether their problems will end? What would be the ideal escape? As malaise eats into the society, more and more young people end up making sad and difficult choices. Theatre as an art, if consciously cultivated, works as a powerful medium of communicating social messages. In Ladi Emeruwa lodged the real prince Hamlet.

And Polonius, played by John Dougall, left the audience pained at heart as his son Laertes, played by Beruce Khan, leaves for Paris. “Neither a borrower nor a lender be; For loan oft loses both itself and friend, and borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry…This above all: to thine own self be true.”

At a time when Bhutanese family structure and values are fast disintegrating, this is the most pressing reminder that all parents must heed to, said a teacher who had come to witness the play.  “Shakespeare should be taught everywhere because his works are about human values, nature and emotions. His writing is so rich, characters carefully drawn, and plots most skillfully crafted. Words hit straight at heart.”

So, when and how could the great bard have lost relevance? Maybe because his works were not fully appreciated, read not acted, said a Globe actor.

Jigme Wangchuk

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