Reimagining Shakespeare: NAC production has female Hamlet, deaf Horatio

Prince Hamlet

Adapted from Shakespeare, directed by Ravi Jain

Why Not Theatre production

Feb. 27-March 9, Azrieli Studio, National Arts Centre

Tickets and instances: and

Shakespeare is likely to be rolling in his grave — or a minimum of doing a double take — to see what a Toronto theatre firm has performed with Hamlet. In a model of the basic reimagined by Why Not Theatre creative director Ravi Jain, Hamlet is a lady, Ophelia is a person and Horatio is deaf. What’s extra, it’s a completely bilingual production, rendered in each English and American Sign Language.

When it premiered in Toronto in 2017, the play earned rave opinions and accolades for the performing. Now it’s ending up a Canadian tour with a run on the NAC. In this interview, edited for size, actor Christine Horne talks in regards to the origins of the production, enjoying Hamlet and what stunned her about deaf tradition.

NAC supplied photograph of Prince Hamlet. (Credit: Bronwen Sharp)


Q: Whose imaginative and prescient was it to reimagine Hamlet?

A: It began with Ravi Jain, who tailored this about 12 years in the past. In 2007, he took Hamlet and rearranged the textual content a bit to inform it from a distinct perspective. It’s nonetheless Hamlet, it’s completely the story, however he needed to experiment with perspective on this story that we all know very properly. The complete factor is being informed by Horatio, and as soon as we had the group of actors collectively, it developed into the play that it’s now.

Q: You imply the unique was a reasonably straight model?

A: Yes. In 2007, he had all of the genders as they’re within the play, all of the actors had been listening to. It was a really completely different factor. He didn’t got down to do a female Hamlet, he simply needed to do Hamlet with me and I occur to be a lady. And then he ended up casting a deaf actor, Dawn Jani Birley, to play Horatio, the storyteller. All the issues got here out of the folks he needed to work with.

Q: What was your response to the concept of enjoying Hamlet?

A: I had labored with Ravi on one other present and we had a extremely good working relationship and an incredible friendship. He’d been throwing that concept round a few years earlier than we did it. It’s not something I ever thought would come my method so I used to be very excited and actually sport for no matter that became.

NAC supplied photograph of Prince Hamlet.

Dahlia Katz /


Q: Did you’ve gotten a earlier reference to the play?

A: I’ve seen extra Hamlets than I’ve seen another play, which isn’t onerous to do as a result of it will get performed lots. I didn’t maintain it up as my favorite play. I acknowledge it as an incredible work however it wasn’t something I studied lots or knew rather well so I may type of come at it with respect but additionally having some irreverence that we may actually take this factor that everyone is aware of and take a look at one thing new with it. Those different variations exist. You may go see a extremely straight-ahead model of Hamlet anyplace but when we’re simply going to do the very same production time and again, you’ll be able to simply watch the film. It’s an incredible play to strive one thing new with.

Q: Have you ever seen a lady play Hamlet?

A: I’ve solely seen males do it. I don’t assume there’s been (a female Hamlet) in Canada. It occurs in theatre faculties however, to my information, we haven’t had a significant skilled production with a lady enjoying Hamlet but in Canada. And that’s type of loopy to me. It’s occurred elsewhere, we simply haven’t had it a lot right here but.

Q: Do the themes of the play change with the shifting of roles?

A: The authentic textual content is large. Anybody who does Hamlet cuts a bunch of stuff. Our model has remained pretty home, I suppose. It’s remained very a lot about grief and betrayal, all inside this household unit. Those issues are at all times going to be related to folks coping with grief and anger. We’re making the story out there to a deaf viewers that doesn’t usually have entry to Shakespeare so I believe that opens it as much as extra individuals who haven’t essentially been in a position to see it. While I’ve seen 12 Hamlets, most likely a variety of our deaf viewers members haven’t seen any. What is an previous story to us is a brand new story to a variety of different folks.

Q: Did you be taught American Sign Language?

A: Yeah, I did for the present, and took classes by myself earlier than the tour so I’m higher in a position to talk with my colleague. It’s been actually fascinating. The bonus reward of doing this present is being uncovered to a complete completely different language and tradition that I didn’t know something about earlier than.

Q: What stunned you about deaf tradition?

A: In my complete ignorance of it, I didn’t ever consider it as a tradition. It’s been illuminating my very own ignorance round that. Everything is new, and I believe that’s been true for everyone on this present. We might be stored so separate and so it’s been so nice to be uncovered to that tradition and group. The strategy we’ve taken with this play may be very intersectional. It’s not together with one within the different; it’s actually each.

Q: It feels like a very good instance of the thrilling issues which can be occurring in Canadian theatre as of late. Is that honest to say?

A: Yeah, a variety of altering of the guard is occurring. Lots of recent creative administrators are coming in, and when these positions open up, they’re usually being crammed by youthful folks, girls, folks of color. When the management adjustments, that adjustments the programming and the viewers. We’ve come a good distance by way of enthusiastic about race and gender and skill. So yeah, I believe we’re in the midst of a shift.

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