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Hamlet: The prince, the people and the puppets

Janni Younge’s powerful interpretation of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, brought to life through puppetry and physical performance, is showing at the Baxter this February. 

First staged at the National Arts Festival in 2022, the contemporary version of the classic has just returned from a successful run at the Chicago International Puppet Festival.

It has been described as “a spellbinding take on Hamlet” and “a quintessential piece of stage performance” (The Herald) and “Mesmerising puppetry unleashes power of Hamlet” (Daily Dispatch).

“The poetry and emotional weight of Shakespeare’s words are echoed in the scale and energy of the puppets,” according to the Baxter’s press release. “Non-verbal, evocative and ‘visually immersive’ figures blend and reconfigure themselves as characters grapple with the depths of passion and grief.

Hamlet’s internal struggles play visibly in the puppetry, as each puppet is a ‘physical being’ supported by the ‘emotional being’ of the performers.”

Among so many other credits, Janni Younge has worked with the Handspring Puppet Company on The Firebird and on William Kentridge’s Woyzeck on the Highveld and Ubu and the Truth Commission. She also created and directed puppetry for The Baxter and Royal Shakespeare Company’s The Tempest.

The cast of Hamlet consists of Mongi Mtombeni and Siyamthanda Sinani as Hamlet, Timothy Redpath as Claudius, Roshina Ratnam as Queen Gertrude, as well as Samkelo Zihlangu, Tshiamo Moretlwe and Beviol Swartz, who bring the full cast of characters to life through larger-than-life puppets.

Directed and designed by Janni Younge, with Roshina Ratman as assistant director, dramaturgy by Janni Younge and Roshina Ratnam, lighting design by Lize-Marie van Rooyen and sound design and original music by Daniel Eppel.

Hamlet is on at the Pam Golding Theatre at Baxter from 22 February to 11 March 2023 at 7.30pm nightly with 11am matinees on Tuesdays and Thursdays for school groups.

Booking is through Webtickets or at Pick n Pay stores. Tickets: R120- R150. Appropriate for all ages, the production is made possible through funding from the City of Cape Town.

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