On a breezy Saturday afternoon, the Yoga Studio at the European Family Club in Al Aziziyah, otherwise perhaps a haven of tranquillity, appears to be firmly in the grip of heightened dramatic energy conjured by the collective might of The Doha Players enacting Hamlet.
In the lobby outside the studio, actors quietly mutter lines from their pages like students giving their notes an anxious once-over before entering the exam hall. Inside, the show goes on, the voices ebbing, raging, laughing, wailing, much like the emotions that they embody from the narrative. All across the venue, there’s a palpable sense of unrelenting dedication, right down to the hustle and bustle around the DIY stage props and costumes hand-made and handpicked by the cast and crew from their homes’ wardrobes and store rooms.
Given the reassuring glimpse into the rehearsal, the much-awaited production of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet by Qatar’s long-standing theatre group The Doha Players is all set to win crowds over at the Black Box Theatre in Education City on Thursday, March 16, at 7:30pm, and then on Friday, March 17, at 7:30pm. Tickets are priced at QR60 for adults and QR30 for students – including university students – and for tickets, you can contact David Pearson on [email protected]
For the past 62 years in Qatar, since their first production, Bird in Hand, in March 1954, amateur theatre group The Doha Players has time and again demonstrated the power and verve of amateur dramatics and crushed perceptions that “amateur theatre” can’t be professional.
Hamlet, also called The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, was written by Shakespeare between the years 1599 and 1602. The play is among Shakespeare’s most powerful and popular works, and also the longest he has written. Often ranked among the most powerful and influential tragedies in world literature, Hamlet is known to be a story capable of “seemingly endless retelling and adaptation by others”.
When asked about how The Doha Players is staging this play, David Pearson, director and key actor of Hamlet, told Community, “Shakespeare staged his plays in broad daylight so that the actors could see and interact with an audience which was on three sides of them. We are going to do the same. We will have the house lights up for the whole show and the audience will be in the round, only a few centimetres from the actors. Also, in Shakespeare’s day, the actors did not wear costumes. They wore the same clothes that would have been seen on the London street or in the London court of the day. We are also going to wear contemporary modern dress which we hope will emphasise the idea that these characters do not belong to some far away fairyland, but rather are us.”
And why should Doha audiences comes to see the play? “First off, Hamlet is fast-paced and exciting. It starts with a ghost floating about the castle scaring the night guards nearly to death and ends with a sword fight where everyone ends up on the floor dead. In between, Hamlet uses his wit and humour to confront death, love, and treachery.”
The play begins with the recent death of King Hamlet, who was Prince Hamlet’s father. Following his death, the king’s brother Claudius, who was the uncle of the young prince, was crowned the King of Denmark. After assuming position as the new king, Claudius married Queen Gertrude, Prince Hamlet’s mother. The young prince is outraged by the actions of Claudius and vows revenge. Not long after the death of his father and marriage of his mother and uncle, the ghost of King Hamlet appears to the prince. Previously, others in the kingdom believed that the king died because of a snake bite, but the ghost reveals that the king was murdered by Claudius. Hamlet then puts on a play for Claudius that re-enacts the death of the king. The play concludes with Gertrude drinking from a poisoned cup, Hamlet stabbing Claudius and Hamlet being stabbed by a poisoned blade.
A timeless tragedy, Hamlet is equally hailed for its delightful comedy bits. “Shakespeare was an actor. He lived and died on the stage and so he knew that if he were to deal with heavy issues such as death, murder, and suicide, he had to provide an audience with lots of comic relief. Because of that, there are jokes and laughter even in the midst of the most tragic moments,” Pearson pointed out.
Soon, The Doha Players is set to unveil some cool productions “Touch wood, we will have the return of the Panto! – Snow White and the Seven Dwarves,” Pearson said.
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