400 Years Later: Prince Hamlet Remixed
— November 1
Four hundred years later, what does Hamlet have to say about today’s society? Ravi Jain’s remixed, reimagined and bilingual Prince Hamlet, presented at Le Diamant from November 10 through 12, challenges traditional ideas of who gets to tell this story with its cross-cultural, gender-bent cast.
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Struggling with the death of his father and the hasty remarriage of his mother to his uncle—brother to the king and also his murderer—Hamlet undertakes the task of avenging his father’s untimely death. Combining English (with French surtitles) and American Sign Language, this groundbreaking production creates a fully integrated retelling for both hearing and Deaf audiences. The story is told from the perspective of Horatio, Hamlet’s best friend, played by Deaf actress Dawn Jani Birley.
Adapting Shakespeare’s plays to contemporary English is already a significant challenge, so it’s hard to imagine the extensive work involved in adding another layer by translating it into visual and poetic sign language. In an interview with Ravi Jain, Dawn Jani Birley shares about the importance of ensuring positive representation of Deaf people, without making their Deafness the centre of the story or approaching it as if it’s a tragedy. Birley addresses how rare it is for a company to invite a “Deaf actor to sign in their first language in a show that has nothing to do with being Deaf.” Her performance earned her the 2017 Toronto Theatre Critics Award for Best Female Performance in a Play.
Inspired by Robert Lepage
When Ravi Jain was a student, he saw a recording of Elsinore, Robert Lepage’s play exploring the themes of Hamlet, at the New York Public Library. It’s what inspired him to take the necessary liberties to create his own version of Hamlet. Fifteen years later, the Prince Hamlet tour will conclude at Le Diamant!
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