Hamlet Or Die

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 25 November, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 25 November, 2000, 12:00am

If you were faced with death, what would you do? Resign to fate? Resist? Or wish it on someone else?

Directed by London-based artist Peta Lily and produced by the Fringe Mime and Movement Laboratory, Hamlet Or Die is a dark and disturbing piece of theatre built on the sufferings of others.

On stage is a group of 'inmates' who are being held captive. They have no names and are referred to only as numbers and they certainly are not treated like humans. They have to do exactly as they are told and if they don't, they are punished by electric shocks.

The person who administers the torture is also an inmate, aptly numbered as '666' (played by Colonel Kwong Wai-chuen). This man is evil. He is feared by all and his orders must be obeyed.

Most disturbingly, he sits with us, the audience.

Having demonstrated who the boss is (by punishing whoever he wishes, even just for fun), 666 orders the inmates to entertain the audience with Shakespeare's Hamlet.

Hamlet Or Die is implicitly and explicitly violent. The technique adopted in this play is what Lily refers to as 'Dark Clown', which 'deals with extremity, pointlessness and pain'. And Hamlet fits that bill perfectly because it is 'full of details inelegant to the point of grotesque' and characters - Old Hamlet, Ophelia, the Queen, the King, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern - who all die.

Lily and the cast cleverly and successfully inject humour into some desperately sad situations without being insensitive. The bilingual script also works well, though we did get a lot more out of the Chinese dialogue.

However, this Dark Clown humour is not everyone's entertainer.

City Festival Theatre, Fringe Club, November 25, 8pm.