In spite of a sudden thunderstorm and rain, Tom Mann theatre was packed on the opening night of Hamlet presented by Sydney Foreign Actors association. Advertised as the Shakespeare classic done in the style of Tim Burton, this rendition featured actors from 12 countries. Sydney Foreign Actors Association is a newly launched advocacy group providing support and opportunities to overseas actors working in Sydney.
Reviewing this play was a bit of conundrum. The diverse cast is obviously a big draw but going in one wondered if that would be the only one. Fortunately, that was not the case. We must however begin with the cast. The play had some inspired casting choices. The role of South Sudan-born actor Mandela Mathia as Hamlet was not the only one. Mathia offered a regal and passionate performance, but there were some over externalised bits that left that felt rushed. Kelsey Skinner as Ophelia is certainly an actor to watch out for and not the only one. The actors playing the King Michela Caratinni and the grave digger Dani Lavorenti dominated the stage with their dramatics. Dani is an explosive comic talent. Some of the acting choices felt a bit camp but still thoroughly entertaining. Other notable performances were the portrayals of Laertes by Adeed Razzouk, Polonius by Steve Allnutt and the ghost by Marcelino Cavestany.
To avoid spoilers let’s just say there are some interesting subversions sprinkled throughout. There was something very refreshing about hearing Shakespeare spoken in a plethora of accents. Sometimes the dialogues were hard to understand but then so is Shakespearean English. But the race blind and gender blind casting did make Shakespeare feel more accessible. The direction by Florence Florens is strong and the scenes felt tight. The only flaw was the soundtrack which could be distracting especially during dialogues.
Overall, a very strong cast definitely highlighting the talent the Australian stage sometimes misses out on by denying outsiders and especially non -white actors opportunities. This is what the SFAA set out to do and they succeeded.
This rendition of Hamlet is strongly recommended while it’s on – for the fresh talent and fresh possibilities it offers.
By: William Shakespeare
Directed by: Florence Florens Presented by Sydney Foreign Actors Association
Photo © SFAA
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