Gertrude's Hamlet - The 2011 production
This was produced with the help of Domenic Mico and the Tuggeranong Arts Centre in Canberra, Australia. It ran for a two-week season and responses were very positive.
OVERHEARD IN THE FOYER:
People were heard arguing with one another on their way out about who was to blame. They said they must come back and see it again, because they couldn’t make up their minds. I bumped into people days later, and they said they had been thinking about it and asked questions.
And: some people actually said that they really must finally see Hamlet proper now!
Some people liked the Shakespeare bits best, others liked the contemporary bits. Some liked both.
Whether you love or loathe Shakespeare – I think you will find this an enjoyable, interesting and thought-provoking night at the theatre.
Gertrude’s Hamlet is an evocative and intriguing play twisting Shakespeare’s well-known tragedy and adding a female perspective. With outstanding performances from the cast, it’s a play not to be missed, currently showing at the Tuggeranong Arts Centre.
Dianne and Greg enjoyed it enormously. From Greg [Shakespeare connoisseur]: I thought the analysis of “Hamlet” was outstanding. I loved the prologue and the whole construct. The three Gertrudes were very good and kudos to your Hamlet. Inspirational, thank you Kerrie.
The best thing about these is the differences between the opinions
Tegan Osborne’s review from the Canberra Weekly
HAMLET THROUGH FEMALE EYES
Written and directed by Canberra’s Kerrie Roberts, Gertrude’s Hamlet is an intriguing take on the Bard’s most recognised tragedy.
Currently playing at the Tuggeranong Arts Centre, the play has been transformed and performed from the perspective of Gertrude — mother of Hamlet — dissecting her perspectives as a mother, a lover and a queen.
Gertrude’s character is split between these three roles and performed by three separate actors – and the result is mesmerising.
As the play progresses we see new and intrinsically female perspectives on events that unfold, performed in a mixture of Shakespearean prose and contemporary speech. The audience is also asked to question whether Gertrude knew of the plot to kill Hamlet’s father, the former king – referred to in the play as Horwendill.
This complex and challenging play was performed admirably by the cast of local actors. The standout performance was delivered by Jenna Arnold who played a superb monarch — concerned primarily with the welfare and security of her lands and country, Denmark.
Adam Salter also offers an excellent performance in the role of Hamlet, as seen through the various eyes of Gertrude.
– Tegan Osborne
Simone Penkethman’s review from the City News, 1-7 September 2011
Hamlet through his mother’s eyes: “Gertrude’s Hamlet”
Women’s Theatre Forum, Tuggeranong Arts Centre
THIS is a strong, new local text with as-yet unrealised potential.
Its debut production at Tuggeranong Theatre is engaging in its relationship to Shakespeare’s text; it provides back story, political insight and an alternative point of view to “Hamlet Prince of Denmark”.
Writer/director, Kerrie Roberts tells the well-known story through Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude.
Roberts’ extensive knowledge of Shakespeare and the historical context of “Hamlet” inform the text. Roberts and her cast successfully meld snippets of Shakespeare into the modern-language play, allowing the audience to easily relate the re-telling to the original story.
Three actresses play aspects of Gertrude: Mother, Woman and Queen to, as the director notes, “allow a more in-depth representation of the complexities of the female experience”.
Elaine Noon’s Mother is the most dynamic of the three. There is scope for further development of the relationship between Gertrude’s three selves, particularly with regard to movement and comedy.
Adam Salter’s petulant and lusty Hamlet is the most fully realised and physically present character in the show.
“Gertrude’s Hamlet” would benefit from more workshopping and the deft hand of an experienced director to highlight its inherent, dark wit, and to shape its overall momentum.
And for the Canberra Times, Peter Wilkins: who liked the Shakespeare bits best. A real compliment for the cast and the director, as he is fussy about his Shakespeare.
Peter Wilkins’ Canberra Times review
Wife, mother, queen
Written and directed by Kerrie Roberts – A Tuggeranong Community Arts Production and The Women’s Theatre Forum
Victim or perpetrator? Innocent or collaborator? Loving mother or lascivious slut? Who is Shakespeare’s Gertrude? Emerging playwright and director, Kerrie Roberts, teases the intellect in Gertrude’s Hamlet, an original work of inspired conjecture and plausible hypothesis.
The audience for Gertrude’s Hamlet is invited to consider the complex motives and actions of one of Shakespeare’s most enigmatic women. Survivor or seductress, we see a woman, sentenced to the age’s strictures upon her sex? Playwright Roberts invites her audience to be the judge.
Roberts introduces us to three Gertrudes, who intermittently assume the role of commentator on their action, or perform their Gertrude in a relevant scene from Hamlet to support their argument.
Gertrude the Mother (Elaine Noon) suffers the desperation of a loving mother, in search of understanding from her troubled son. Gertrude the Woman (Cerridwyn Murphy) presents the potently sexual lover and wife; and Gertrude the Queen (Jenna Arnold) sits in resentful and embittered judgment on her own powerlessness.
Roberts’s subtly veiled feminist discourse is couched in contemporary colloquialism as comment on the ineffectual actions of Hamlet’s father, Horwendil (Anthony Ives), Claudius (Tony Guyot) and Hamlet (Adam Salter). Although immediately accessible and effectively lucid in its perceptions of Roberts’s Gertrudes, the modern idiom pales next to Shakespeare’s emotionally charged text.
On opening night, the actors appeared tentative during the first half of the play, which seemed to be driven more by ideas than powered by the drama of Gertrude’s predicament. In the second half, the amateur cast found their mettle when playing the Shakespearian scenes, culminating in an effectively staged final scene. A more astute dramaturgical and directorial eye might have suggested greater balance between discourse and drama in the opening scenes of the play.
Notwithstanding its theatrical shortcomings. Gertrude’s Hamlet is an imaginatively conceived and thoroughly researched insight into Hamlet’s sexual politics. It would be an enlivening adjunct to a student’s study of Hamlet and Shakespeare’s women.
The ACT Government’s Office of Women has generously funded the Women’s Theatre Forum to read and stage plays that are of particular interest to women, both as themes and characters.
Gertrude’s Hamlet is an excellent choice by Tuggeranong Community Arts to demonstrate this mission and provide opportunities for local emerging artists and members of the community, interested In creating and presenting new works.