Thursday, 4 February 1999

Kill Hamlet, 4 Feb 1999

Kill Hamlet by Zijah A Sokolovic
at La Mama until Feb 21, 1999
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on 4 Feb 1999

To analyse theatre may be an act of despair or hilarity. Kill Hamlet is both. The actor (Daniel Schlusser) capers and pontificates, chats or declaims, disecting the theatrical process and challenging our pre-conceptions. Such a work could only be the product of years of disillusionment and love for this artificial world.

 Zijah A Sokolovic, an actor from Sarajevo, wrote and performed this cunning, self-reflective solo piece of theatre 2000 times in Yugoslavia.

Acclaimed Austrian actor, Justus Neumann, performed it in German then brought it to Australia where he now lives on Bruny Island creating theatre in an idyllic, remote setting.

Theatre is a fluid, multi-skilled profession so Neumann has switched roles for this latest Australianised production, now directing Schlusser who is better known as a director.

His performance is relaxed, intelligent and very funny. We become intimate friends, responding to his quips about arts bureaucracy, "poor theatre" and the plight of the artist. Some audience members even play a forest while the rest create a storm. The intimacy of the piece works perfectly in La Mama. We can feel the sweat of the actor in this heat..

The love-hate relationship an actor has with his job is highlighted. He craves approval from his father but knows acting is not a "real" job. He lives for his work but it brings him close to madness. After all, he makes up stories and pretends to be other people. Some would call that mental illness.

This is not a narrative play although the story of the actor who greets us is the thread that holds it. It falls into five distinct sections, some containing references to other plays such as Macbeth and Endgame. This gives the text a slightly clumsy structure but the great advantage is that it allows the actor to shift pace, keeping energy high and the audience involved.

The opening reveals that there will be no big production. Funding was not forthcoming. Actors in the audience giggle or groan in recognition. We must imagine all the trappings and emotions of a huge show in "three long acts". We all know, he says cynically, "The more powerful the catharsis, the higher the ticket price."

Neumann's crisp, clever direction has a strong sense of the pace and rhythm of the piece which obviously comes from performing it himself.


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