I love Shakespeare. And I love music from the 90s. But I haven’t really seen it coming that somebody would mix these two things up.
However, somebody did …! Ending up with an absolute amusing cocktail of an open-air play.
The scene is set impressively good with a simple stage on wheels, few props, and the natural scenery of Ørstedsparken, Copenhagen.
“Nay, answer me. Stand and unfold yourself”
“Long live the King!”
“WHAT THE F… ARE WE DOING?!”
The young actors look confused at each other. They have just started the famous opening-scene of Hamlet, just to interrupt themselves within the first minute of the play. It looks like an accident, but soon their audience gets wiser. Month of Corona-lockdown has made all of us go a little mad.
“What if we only had one day left? What if this is the last theatre we ever get to play – before the next lockdown?! We don’t have time for the full opening of Hamlet …”, the actors agree on stage before they start a raptune about inoculating, tests and vaccines, created on Danish pop-act Nik & Jay “En dag tilbage”.
We need Shakespeare remixed. Like a pop-compilation on CD from the 90s … for us who remember, Absolute Music … the bestselling albums 🙂
This is the conclusion from the four actors on stage, before they ask their audience if they are ready to “smash Summer, in a non-violent way“? Another reference to what has made both authorites and citizens go mad during COVID19-panic.
So, we are set to a guided tour through Shakespeare’s most famous plays. Past meets present in equally absurd ways … the face masks and disposable gloves attached to the actors’ costumes seems just as natural as the famous skull from Hamlet on stage.
The tour starts as King Lear takes over the stage with his 3 loving daughters Goneril, Regan and Cordelia competing to express the love to their father.
A classical twist here is to make male actors play female parts and the other way around. We have seen it a thousand times before. But I must admit, in this sense it works – probably because everything else is turned upside down, in our world as well as Shakespeare’s.
Fast forward to another troubled family.
The lost and tortured soul of Prince Hamlet of Denmark wins new sympathy with a soundtrack of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”. The lyric actually goes “Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy? … Mother, just killed a man … Mama, oooooh …”. I can’t say whether Freddie Mercury has just read his Hamlet at the time of writing the lyrics. But today it just fits! Not least because of the fantastic performance from the young actress.
The scene ends up with a little more than friendly kiss between Hamlet and his mother Getrude, strongly indicating inbreeding in the dysfunctional family (in which Gertrude marries Hamlet’s uncle Claudius, suspiciously short after the death of her husband) … if you are still with me here, I am sure you are familiar with the plot of Hamlet. If not, well the best is yet to come for you 😉
In our remix of Shakespeare’s greatest hits there is no time to linger – not even at the most grandiose play.
So … moving on the audience is introduced to how to impress and score at Shakespeare’s time. In Twelfth Night, we are introduced to lovesick Malvolio who wants to do everything to impress the beloved Olivia. Which his fellow-actors on stage smugly take advantage of in a secret alliance with the audience to make him do the most impossible things (for a 15th century character); to breakdance and make a rap. All introduced to him in fake text-messages from Olivia on his cell phone(!).
Which brings us to a contemporary selfie-slut, dying to make the best possible story for her Instagram-profile from stage – including a happy audience. ???? 🙂 🙂 🙂 ❤️ ❤️ ????
This is the perfect overlap to Taming of the Shrew, in which we follow Petruccio’s attempt to score the hard-to-get Katherina.
“You sing like a nightingale” / “You are beautiful like … a flower” (“It’s Shakespeare, so it works every time”, Petruccio confides the audience).
But this time he is wrong. Nothing works. At last we hear terms like “Pussycat”, “Cock tease” and “Fuckboy” from the stage …! Fading to … the greatest love story of all time: Romeo and Juliet.
Note the entrance of the lovely Juliet at the scenery of idyllic lake and trees from Ørstedparken – perfectly choreographed to Whitney Houston – “I will always love you”. Just before she meets her Romeo, and magic happens between the two of them … Turning into a true “love medley” with all the most romantic songs you can imagine.
I believe the look on Romeo’s face says it all.
The team behind “Absolute Shakes, Vol. 6” has really played with all details.
Even though the pace is rather fast, they never leave their audience short of breath. This is due to the educational introductions – which fit perfectly into the plot – done by fellow-actors whenever a new play shows at the stage. Besides from taking their audience through almost 10 plays of Shakespeare (I gave up counting) they also manage to create 2 satirical sketches about the form of theatre itself.
French minimalism is visualized in all its absurdity in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” by flying visit (in Danish it translates to “French visit”!) from a French troupe of actors – which is quite similar to the Danish one we just saw disappearing backstage 😉
Same thing happens to the award-winning – and much hyped – troupe all the way from United States. Everything is big over there, including the expectations to what turned out to last 10 seconds of “The Winter’s Tale”.
But – to be or not to be Hamlet, just one more time, as it was put by the character him(her)self, towards the end … is what leads us from great love to great revenge. Personalized in Iago from “Othello” making the General believe his wife is unfaithful – as a payback from real adulteress on Iago’s expense. So, this leads to a trail of murder and suicide, causing us to ask like Haddaway: “What is Love”?
Our actors on stage make death happen in the most glorious ways, stabbing in the back, poking eyes out and shooting a dick loose …! All in a “death medley”, complete with sound effects.
As most readers will know, Romeo & Juliet has taught us that there is a very short distance between love and death. Or human and worms; in the words of Hamlet: “… in the worms I will stay”. Perhaps no pun is intended to the famous “worm-move” repeated on the dancefloor several times throughout the 90s?
Nevertheless, the show ends in a true dance-revival, including Chaka Khan – “I Feel for you”, Michael Jackson – “Thriller” and Snap – “The Power”, just to name a few, to finally reach climax with Dr Alban – “Sing Hallelujah” (not all from the 90s Absolute Music-area, but as someone did sing in the 1991: “Whatever, nevermind …”).
Need I say more?! No. Because you should go and pop it like Shakespeare!
It’s pop, it’s classical acting, it’s brilliant 🙂 And it is free 🙂 🙂
Dramatist Thomas Markmann, his crew, the actors and Folketeatret has done a brilliant job.
Absolute Shakes, Vol. 6 will play for free at Ørstedsparken.
It’s on Tuesday to Saturday at 6.30 PM, from August 10th to 21st.
PS: If you are – or just has become – interested in the works of Shakespeare, the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust has made a splendid “Shakespedia” with everything you need to know to dig in deeper on your own. Go study your classics …