The Peter Brook Hamlet, which ended its heralded, sold-out run at the Brooklyn Academy of Music's Harvey Theatre on May 6, has moved on to Chicago. The production began performances at the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre May 10 and will stay there until June 2.
The spare, stripped-down mounting (one two hours and twenty minutes) originated in Paris in November 2000. Hamlet marked Brook's first theatre offering in the U.S. since The Man That... at the Brooklyn Academy of Music several seasons back, and his first visit ever to CST.
The British actor Adrian Lester (last seen at BAM as Rosalind in Cheek by Jowl's all-male staging of As You Like It) is Hamlet. The cast also features Scott Handy as Horatio, Jeffrey Kissoon as Claudius and The Ghost; Bruce Myers as Polonius and the Grave Digger; Natasha Parry as Gertrude; Shantala Shivalingappa as Ophelia; Rohan Siva as Laertes and Gildenstern and Naseeruddin Shah as Rosencrantz and the First Player. All play on a set which is little more than a rectangular orange carpet strewn with bright pillows.
Brook, born in London but long based in Paris, is one of the half dozen most influential directors of the past 30 years, both through his ambitious, yet spare, productions, and his several volumes of theory, including the seminal quartet of essays, "The Empty Space." His career is littered with landmark productions, some of the most famous being Marat/Sade, the marathon The Mahabharata, The Tragedie of Carmen and his takes on A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Cherry Orchard. Brook began his career just after World War II. He started a long association with what became the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1946 with Love's Labour's Lost and went on to direct plays by Christopher Fry, Paul Scofield in King Lear and Laurence Olivier in Titus Andronicus. By 1970, however, he'd moved to Paris and founded the International Centre of Theatre Research. There, he assembled a group of theatre artists, including everyone from actors to musicians to acrobats, and experimented with improvisation and efforts to bridge the gaps between different cultures.
—By Robert Simonson