Saturday evening we saw Hamlet at the Heidelberg Castle Festival – luckily with perfect weather this evening. The Castle Festival is always a fantastic event with open air performances in the central castle courtyard. It was a very modern production of good old Shakespeare, with a good many modifications of the old text, but extremely impressive.
Director Simon Solberg has created a tour de force into all evil of the world. His Hamlet gets mad about the corruption and deceit he sees everywhere. The serpent of evil has undermined the entire world and continues to drive mankind into a life that is not worth living and that is disgraceful for human beings. Hamlet impressively shows this in the famous play within the play which he orchestrates. He starts with Adam and Eve and ends with the big banking crash of recent years. However, his madness drives Hamlet to finally becoming a tragic hero in the form of a terrorist accepting the death even of his friends. Like in the original of roughly 400 years ago the ending is disastrous. Death is everywhere – while there might be a glimpse of hope because the citizens of Denmark entered the castle ready to overthrow the corrupt regime.
The production is extremely powerful and the actors, above all Paul Grill as Hamlet, were marvellous and had to work really hard. I have never seen such a fast-moving production before, full with action and full with citations from other plays, from the rock and pop scene, from the global discourse of the last 40 years as such – including trivial TV shows as well as “the serious arts”. My favourite was the serpent talking like Kermit from the Muppets and Sesame Street. And don't worry if you don't remember any serpent at all from the last time you read Hamlet ;-)
There were some people who expressed their dislike with this production when the break started. Some even left and did not want to stay for the second part. The review articles that appeared in the local press are pretty neutral. The local Rhein-Neckar TV even gives you some glimpse of the performance. A nice picture gallery is available on the Heidelberg theatre's website.
All of us really enjoyed the performance very much. We found it very thought-provoking and all in all an impressive new interpretation of Hamlet in our time. This is definitely innovative theatre. This Hamlet might have some impact and influence far beyond the old walls of Heidelberg castle.