Horatio, written and directed by James Cain
Bats Theatre, until February 14
Reviewed by Laurie Atkinson
The tramp of the goose-stepping soldiers of Fortinbras' army can be heard as we see Horatio cradling the dying Hamlet at the start of James Cain's play that is "a love letter to Shakespeare, as well as exploring the dynamics of friendship and loyalty".
The play then delves into the future where we discover Fortinbras (Jed Davies), whose "rights of memory in this kingdom/which now to claim my vantage doth invite me" appear to invite him to be as dictatorial, randy and oppressive as the freshly dead Claudius.
And the faithful Horatio is clearly the fellow to cleanse whatever is still rotten in the state of Denmark, just as his friend Hamlet (Ryan Kingston), whose memory and good name Horatio is determined to protect, attempted.
Horatio (James Cain), who is as moody and introspective as his dead friend, has to contend with a young woman, too. In his case it is his sister, Imogen (Miryam Jacobi), who attracts the eye of the lusty Fortinbras.
She tends to hover about the stream near the willow tree where Ophelia drowned and Hamlet is now buried.
She also faces the dilemma that faced Isabella when confronted by Angelo in Measure for Measure, but her crafty brother comes to the rescue with a plan after explosive letters from Hamlet to Ophelia are revealed.
The language of the play is a mix of pastiche Shakespeare and brief quotations from the real thing (Richard III, etc) and a sprinkling of modern English ("How the hell did this happen?"). It could work effectively but the play and the performers, two of whom at times overact in an old-fashioned Shakespearean style for little comic effect, never seem to find the right balance between the serious and the humorous.
- © Fairfax NZ News
Have you read Kiwi author Eleanor Catton's Man Booker Prize-winning novel The Luminaries?Related story: What now for Eleanor Catton?