“Fired by Hamlet” offers the right mix of Commedia dell’arte, physical theatre and the Bard for the Delhi audience….writes Preetha Nair
The title “Fired by Hamlet” is intriguing – and the Shakespearean connection is unmistakable. However, it’s with a twist – by replacing the famous mousetrap in Hamlet with a struggling Indian theatre company trying its fortunes in Denmark to get hired by Prince Hamlet.
“Fired by Hamlet”offers the right mix of Commedia dell’arte, physical theatre and the Bard for the Delhi audience. The hour-and a-half-long play, presented by Theatre Garage Project, is helmed by German director Michael Moritz, for whom the work is all about the desire, hopes and fears of a bunch of people identical to refugees all over the world.
“The plot is simple. An Indian theatre comedy group, who has nothing to lose in India, hears that Prince Hamlet is looking for some comedians. They travel to Denmark for an audition, where they have to show the famous Mousetrap. But they do it with dance and music. They don’t understand the speech of Hamlet. Prince Hamlet fires them and a fiasco follows,” explained Moritz, a faculty at the Vienna Conservatory. He has also authored 11 crime fiction works
From his immense experience in physical theatre, Moritz spins the drama through comedian archetypes and improvisations. “Commedia is also a theatre of speech. But the pace is physical. It’s not mime. There is not much music,” he said. Commedia dell’arte is a form of theatre characterised by masked ‘types’ which began in Italy in the 16th century and was responsible for the improvised performances.
The play relates the conflict-ridden tale of the seven-member crew of the theatre company, owned by Magnifico. There is Columbina, the pin-up girl, the clever one who knows how to handle the bosses. Then there is Olivia, the lover. The other characters include Stupido, Harlequino, Brigella and Capitano and they constantly try to vie with each other.
“There is lot of jealousy among the members. Everybody wants to please Prince Hamlet not as a company, but individually. So there’s chaos,” Moritz explained. Moritz’s collaboration with Theatre Garage began with a ‘Funny Bones’ workshop in Delhi.
“When we decided to do a play, we zeroed in on Shakespeare as we wanted some funny stuff. Shakespeare is a treasure trave and his comedy is a rude one. Another reason for choosing Hamlet is that I could use the mousetrap,” he said. Theatre Garage Project founder and director Ashwath Bhatt considers himself lucky to be associated with Mortiz.
“We are lucky to get Moritz’s skills and it’s a lifetime experience puttingtogether this play. It was mere passion that brought us together to put it together though there were financial constraints”, Bhatt said.
Mortiz is not skeptical about the acceptance of physical theatre in India. “India has physical traditions and moreover, physical theatre involves the audience in the play. There is no chance of escaping it,” he assured.
Though Mortiz has plans to conduct workshop back home on Asian theatre, he feels that music and dance dominates Indian theatre more. “Though I haven’t watched many plays here, I feel that music dominates the theatre. When you cover a piece with music, there is no chance of acting. Then it’s become much stronger than the physical,” he said.
Bollywood is popular in Germany, he said. “I watched a Bollywood movie, ‘Baazigar’. The hero was playing too much of idiot, instead of playing the situation,” laughed Mortiz, whose idea of clowning is much more than goofing around.