hamlet is dead, no gravity by Ewald Palmetshofer, presented as a part of the Arcola’s VOLTA International Festival, presents a family with too many skeletons in the closet, two sets of friends with patchwork pasts and throws in a birthday and funeral – wrapped up in the beautiful Studio 1 at the Arcola, all brickwork and girders.
From the outset, I’m not sure if it’s the translation or Palmetshofer’s original turn of phrase that gets to me, but there is something empty about the piece. The lack of set seems to fit the style, but why such banal pseudo-office chairs? The neon ‘Ausgang’ sign points to this play’s Austrian roots, but why is it flickering on an off, like some one word obtuse Greek Chorus?
Mani and Dani, run into old ‘friends’ Bine and Oli at a mutual friends funeral, and things start to go downhill, cracks start to appear in everyone’s armour. This is framed by a meal at parents Caro and Kurt’s house, for 95 year old grandmother’s birthday. Monologues punctuate the action on a variety of topics, heaven’s emptiness, love and sex, and we fracture in and out of scenes, almost as though our signal is fuzzy and it can’t quite latch on to a linear narrative.
At its heart, I do believe Palmetshofer is telling an interesting story, and Andrea Ferran‘s direction tries to extract moments of real meaning and heart throughout certain soliloquies (this play is so packed with them I think even the real Hamlet might object to the amount of proselytising). Performances are varied, particularly good work from a gruff Stuart Bowman and a gloriously overripe Elizabeth Chan. Although the writing has moments of poetry and imagery, I can’t focus, the repetition and the arbitrary scene structure make this a difficult slog.
The VOLTA festival is about presenting translated and international work in collaboration with British artists and hamlet is dead, no gravity is an admirable component of that M.O. Unfortunately, as a piece it is a convoluted piece of writing, attempting to make points that elude the audience, and pull solemnity out of repetition. 3/5
Review written by Samuel Clay.
hamlet is dead. no gravity was shown at the Arcola Theatre from Thursday 3rd until Saturday 12th September. To catch up on other shows at this year’s VOLTA International Festival, visit here…