Post Curtain Call:
The first thing that struck us was the atmosphere of the stage; without revealing too much just yet, one can say that the ambience was well-established before the play even began. ‘Tragedi Hamlet’ is Dato’ Faridah Merican’s adaptation of ‘Hamlet’ (and this isn’t the first time she’s directed this play in Bahasa Malaysia); one of Shakespeare’s most dramatic plays.
It began with a scene that seemed confusing, but soon proved to be of relevance. The opportunity was taken to mystify the audience a little, as well as show off some creative choreography. It should be noted that the costumes used in the starting scene helped to draw the audience in; interest was piqued immediately (and the symbolism of the blank faces in this play is highly appreciated).
While there were a couple of moments during the first act that dragged on a little- perhaps due to incorporating as much of the translated original dialogue- the pacing of the play was done well. Here, we must interrupt ourselves and say that we truly enjoyed the staunch loyalty to the original plot of ‘Hamlet’. There was an obvious localization of the play, but it was incorporated so seamlessly that the Bard’s twists shone through.
Back to the first act; the pacing of the actors was nothing short of precise. If one character exited the stage during the end of one scene, they reappeared quickly enough from the other side for the following scene. This created a fluidity in the storytelling that kept the audience on their toes. The actors themselves displayed pretty decent interpretations for their strong characters.
Ali Alasri, who played Hamlet, was vigorous in his role and had a presence that demanded to be felt. Tria Aziz– the Queen- was excellent for the brief amounts of time she got to be vocal. Hers was a role that was noticed even when she was merely watching events unfold before her. Omar Ali, who played both the King and the Ghost, was perhaps more memorable with the latter- a wronged and sullen spirit asking to be avenged.
Other notable mentions include Adry Nasution (Polonius)- who displayed great spatial awareness during his delivery, and Arief Hamizan (Laertes) for playing the distraught brother. Hana Nadira was the hopelessly naive Ophelia, who made a distressing descent into a lovelorn waif; she truly shined in her moment of madness during the flower scene. That interaction between two siblings who lost their parent was very emotionally raw.
There were just enough comical moments to let the audience breathe through the heaviness of the story. The set was complemented by choreography that truly utilized it- the nimbleness displayed as a result was pleasing. One issue, however, would be that the cloth hangings near the front tended to block certain action onstage from some audience members, or so we’ve been informed.
The lighting was good, and the music was well-composed with just the right amount of dramatic tension. Scenes were given realism by very good sound effects. The costumes, however, were a little confusing at times- the modernism in the younger characters seemed strange compared to the old-school look of Hamlet’s traitorous friends and the traditional garb of the King.
All in all, it was a very enjoyable evening. ‘Tragedi Hamlet’ didn’t quite end with a bang, although considering the final scene, it wasn’t for lack of drama. Perhaps the fight scene could have been prolonged for a higher climax, which then would probably end the whole thing more strongly. But the deaths at the end, strangely enough, were almost therapeutic for us.
If “to see or not to see” is the question, we would recommend you go “see”. Hurry, the ‘Tragedi Hamlet’ only plays for two more days!