By Roman Auriti
Love, betrayal and stress are all feelings that present day university students face during their university years. William Shakespeare understood this when he wrote Hamlet and managed to express these emotions in a very human way that, literally, people of all ages could relate to in some way. The University of Calgary drama department will channel his words Feb. 17-28 as they embark on their own version of the play.
U of C has never attempted one of Shakespeare’s four big plays (Macbeth, King Lear, Othello and Hamlet) and director Patrick Finn says they’re adding in a twist.
“It’s an all female cast,” he explains. “Calgary is loaded with brilliant female actors. There are a lack of roles for all of these brilliant women. I can’t imagine why anybody would stage a Shakespeare play without doing gender-blind casting. I said that anybody could try out for any role, and when you do that, what you find is that you have so many brilliant women actors that you’re going to be able to stage just about anything as long as you give them the chance to do the roles.”
Finn also explains they decided to stage everything in the original time period as well as alter all of the University Theatre for their purposes. Hamlet is also getting its own unique score written right here at the U of C.
“I’m really interested in music and wanted really good music for this show,” says Finn. “The difficulty with that is what people often do is that people will pick songs that they like and stick them into the show, but that doesn’t make them fit. Songs have been composed for when Ophelia’s mad and for the grave diggers singing in the graveyard and those songs are specifically based off Danish folk songs directly from that time period. [Our composer has] gone back and researched those things, [including] all natural instruments [and] tunings from that time period.”
The drama department has put in an incredible amount of detail. Finn says it’s all in an attempt to emulate Shakespeare’s vision.
“Including intermission, it’s less than two and a half hours, just like how Shakespeare did it,” he explains. “When Shakespeare did this, it lasted two hours. That’s the way ours is. Hamlet is an exciting, fast-paced play with ghosts, sword fights, love, jealousy, murder, betrayal and a climatic ending.”