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iHAMLET: Shakespeare's longest play in 60 minutes

Ashraf Johaardien as Hamlet

After a very succesful run in Johannesburg, the critically acclaimed production of iHAMLET – starring Ashraf Johaardien – is heading for Cape Town. Jade Bowers, the play's director and designer talks about condensing Shakespeare's longest play into one hour.

iHAMLET
has been very successful so far. What is the piece about and why that name?

In a world of iPads, iPods, iPhones, Blackberry, Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms, the way in which Robin has cut and collaged one of Shakespeare’s longest plays into an hour-long solo performance mirrors a contemporary fixation with “i”. In addition it reflects “i” in the title of our production, which is further personified by our solo performer, Ashraf Johaardien. With flashes of Hamlet's wild wit and playful humour, our version of the play also unfolds entirely from his perspective and tracks the prince's transition from deep melancholy to unhinged passion, charting the course of real and feigned madness from overwhelming grief to seething rage.
 
What has been the general feedback from audiences after seeing the show?

From audiences who have a love of literature, theatre and Shakespeare, the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. The show has generally been received as bold, innovative, challenging, brave and well crafted. But there is a minority who expected this to be Hamlet dumbed down. It’s not. So of course they were disappointed. It’s not that you need an intimate knowledge of the play, but you do need a general appreciation of language and theatrecraft to really engage with the production.

I believe even Judge Edwin Cameron saw it! What was his feedback?

Yes, he did. And his response was extremely affirming. In fact, he used the adjectives “moving” and “brilliant” in describing the performance and called it a “tour de force”.
 
As director, how does one go about creating a "post-modern, 60-minute take on Shakespeare's longest play"? What does this mean? Sounds like an impossible job!

You work with awesome people like Robin Malan, who did the adaptation. He prefers to call it a “collage” and that’s what the play is – essentially a 60-minute collage of Hamlet’s best soliloquies presented in such a way that it retells the play entirely from his perspective. Impossible? Not so much – rather, it is challenging, which I’m always up for.

Jade Bowers

After iHAMLET’s run in Theatre On The Bay in Cape Town, where will it travel to next?

We don’t have any immediate plans for iHAMLET after the Cape Town run, because Ashraf and I are actually working on restaging Clora, a comedy cabaret we developed last year. We’re booked to play it at POPART, Main Street Life in Johannesburg before we take it to the Grahamstown National Arts Festival. We are hoping to bring Clora to Cape Town because it really is a tribute to the city and the eccentricities of certain characters you can find only on the Cape Flats. 

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