If the thought of a Shakespearean tragedy makes you sleepy then pay attention, because this New York-based theatre company is coming to wake you up.


This article was originally published by Time Out Abu Dhabi, 7 April 2015

By Liz Totton

Check out Shakespeare in Abu Dhabi with Punk Rock Hamlet

If the thought of a Shakespearean tragedy makes you sleepy then pay attention, because this New York-based theatre company is coming to wake you up.

Abu Dhabi’s visual art scene is exploding, but the pickings remain slim for theatre lovers. Thankfully, the New York-based company Theater Mitu, with its boundary-busting acting troupe, is bringing Hamlet/UR Halmet to a theatre near us. The performance is both in partnership with—and in counterpoint to—the art on the walls and the music to your ears. This is not your mother’s Shakespeare.

Theater Mitu, a professional New York City theatre company currently in residence in Abu Dhabi, has created a radical new adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The show, which runs from April 16 – 18, will be the inaugural professional theatre production in the new NYUAD Arts Centre.

The company’s mission, according to producer Tyler Penfield is to, ‘Expand the definition of theatre through methodical experimentation with its form. What we’re doing with Hamlet/UR Hamlet falls within that goal, as we aim to shift the expectations of normal theatre-goers while also (hopefully) attracting a new audience who might not normally consider themselves traditional “theatre people” with our unusual format’.

If a stuffy, unnaturally silent room full of seated people with actors speaking in tongues comes to mind when you think of Shakespeare, Hamlet/UR Hamlet hopes to dispel that myth. Tyler tells us, ‘There are no rules when you come to our performance. The performance itself is part visual arts, part performance arts and part punk rock. You are free to choose what path you take through Hamlet/UR Hamlet.’

If that doesn’t make sense on first read. Tyler hopes that you will reconsider your perception of the word ‘theatre’. He adds, ‘The members of our company come from many backgrounds with regards to both their knowledge of Shakespeare and their artistic interests. Our troupe of “curious people” are photographers, actors, documentarians, artists, punk rockers and academics. Our collective interests are vast, and I think this comes through in our performances’.

The best way to describe Hamlet/UR Hamlet is a fusion of gallery installation and performance installation. Over the course of the past year, the company has been researching and experimenting with Shakespeare’s Hamlet, as well as other versions of the tale (both pre- and post-dating Shakespeare’s work).

The result is a thoroughly modern interpretation of the play which will leave theatre-goers questioning their definition of the word ‘theatre’ as well as in heavy contemplation of the universal themes contained within the work. Tyler says, ‘The reason this tale has been told for centuries is that it is so universal. It tells the story of love, loss, madness and betrayal. We can all relate to it on some level.’ Tyler adds, ‘Once we took out the stumbling blocks of the heavy, archaic language – that some love, of course, we were free to consider the drama’s true meaning individually and collectively as a company.

‘The performance is a fast paced series of installations presented in a gallery setting. The gallery installations will be interrupted temporally, physically and in a performative manner by shorter performance installations in the same space. There is also a garage/punk/rock band from NYC, The Other Men, who make another loud interruption, and they are an installation in their own right.’

Theatre-goers move through the gallery as one might a museum, only here the work on view is visual, performance, and musical. Tyler says, ‘You can follow your own pace, linger longer by pieces that move you and faster by ones that don’t. There is no right and wrong way to “watch” Hamlet/UR Hamlet. The suggested viewing time is 60-90 minutes. There is no curtain call. The show is over when you say so, and no one will ever shush you in a Theater Mitu production. Our only hope is that you leave the performance different than you walked in. Perhaps your notion of the meaning of theatre has changed? Perhaps you feel differently about Shakespeare? Maybe an aspect of the storyline touched you, and you leave contemplating your own relationships. If any of that happens, we will feel as though we succeeded’.

If you are keen on having your notion of the boundaries of theatre upended, this performance for you. If you just want to check out the new theatre space and have a look, that’s all right too. This company wants to you to experience theatre without boundaries. Shakespeare without pretence, and punk rock in the unlikeliest of places. Let Theater Mitu make a theatre lover out of you, if you are not already.

Hamlet/Ur-Hamlet is being performed by Theater Mitu at the NYUAD Arts Center from Thursday to Saturday at 8pm, with an additional 2pm matinee performance on Saturday. Tickets are free of charge but registration is required.