A review of Örkény Theatre’s production of Shakespeare’s Hamlet (dir. Bagossy László) by Bozóki Vivien
Shakespeare’s Hamlet played in a modern age can bring some surprises. Especially if it’s played in Örkény Theatre. For example, I would never have thought that Hamlet could be performed in an unchanging set that is a stadium for the whole time of the performance, or that characters could swear in the performance of a so-called classic. I am glad to state however: yes, both can be done in an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Why the stadium stood its place was because it symbolised that in this state something was wrong. A stadium, one would think, is not a proper stage for Hamlet, but neither is it proper to marry your deceased husband’s brother within a few months.
Concerning swear words, I had thought that hearing such expressions on stage would be severely shocking. This was not the case, however, with Örkény’s Hamlet. One of the reasons for this was that linguistically, the function of swearing is to express intense feelings. In a situation full of lies, spying, superficial relationships, and death and even murder, people’s emotions would be more than intense in real life as well. Swearing provided a sense of reality and also humour that reached the modern, mainly young audience as well.
Another thing that made the performance very modern was the social criticism it gave. This criticism wasn’t offending in any way, it just kindly pointed out with good humour that yes, we are a society addicted to our phones, we have women who use make-up to get facial features that they don’t have, and young people tend to behave like herds of wild animals, shouting obscene slogans from behind cordons when there is physical conflict between groups.
All in all, I think Hamlet was an entertaining production with many unconventional elements. It is strange to say that a play that’s supposed to be a tragedy was so humorous and entertaining, but it had its tragic aspect as well. The death of the entire royal family – or of any kind of family – is in itself tragic, and what made it more tragic is the way strangers came and took selfies at the scene of the bloodshed. This is again a piece of strong criticism, that points out a tragedy in our society: even when there is something horrible happening, we have no sense of intimacy, empathy or respect. We can’t resist the urge of social media platforms to post something about the incident, just to prove and show that we were there.
Images taken from Örkény Theatre’s Hamlet gallery, photographed by Gordon Eszter.