Upon leaving “I was Hamlet” I had one prevailing thought – I had no idea what I had just seen. However, as this is a physical adaptation of Heiner Muller’s “Hamletmachine” and I had much the same reaction after I read “Hamletmachine” in college, I find that reaction highly fitting. This play, experience is a better word, is free-form, visceral and interactive. Actually interactive is an understatement. There are no chairs, the audience stands or sits and the performers move in and out of the people. The audience is encouraged to move in the space and interact. The cast was really fantastic about subtly clearing the way whenever there was about to be something big or particular violent, so there was no fear of getting in the way.
For as dark as the space was, and as creepy as some of the lurking cast members were, it always felt like a safe space. My experience was tainted a bit by the fact that the heat combined with too much coffee and not enough of food had left me feeling queasy and light-headed. Not the best for a super interactive show. That being said, I want to give the cast massive kudos for being so cognizant of their audiences’ body language. They were really great about reading what level of interaction each person was comfortable with, and if an audience member didn’t warm up, the performer simply moved on to the next person. I very much appreciated this, and despite not feeling well, was still able to enjoy and participate without being harangued to do more.
This show is loud and chaotic and there are generally multiple things to draw the eye at all times. I still really have no idea what I saw, but I left the space having experienced something rather profound. “I Was Hamlet” is definitely not for everyone, but if you’re up for trying something completely different, give it a #ChanceItLA.