Naked Shakespeare!-to tutors,writers and performers of Collectif H@mlet!

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Shakespeare is not strange to me since my major at University was English Language and Literature. Yet it was 26 years ago when I last read his Renaissance English whereas nowadays we do not see much of his vocabulary and syntax, neither do we see many expressions, idioms, and many connotations have changed with time and history…

imgp65391For Shakespeare — like many of our ancient writers or poets — not understanding the language and history doesn’t make much of a fuss! Fortunately, we modern people still benefit from those who devote their time and energy and even whole life preserving the language and the history by studying, translating and interpreting the great works of all times.

the author at 6 monthsMy interest in Shakespeare stopped quite some time ago, mostly because my subject rooted overseas and it had been very so strange to me, not only the language and stories, but also the things behind them. I was too young, living in a society too strange to Shakespeare’s world, too naive to understand him and his great works. Eric Satie said: Je suis venu au monde très jeune dans un monde très vieux (I was born very young into a world very old).  As I grow older — 10 years older in Shakespeare’s transformed homeland — my interest is itched up by the show of Stéphane Zarov & Linda Roy, the profs and their theatre students at UQÀM.

imgp65371I would never imagine myself going to see a theatre play like Hamlet! These past 10 years of busy life trying to gain my glorious life in Montreal made me so unused of such matters! When the show started, I felt a certain kind of uneasiness and uncertainty if it would be worth my time…

The show started, freshly and surprisingly from the corridor where we were waiting to enter the hall. A young actor recited, walking through us and looking right into us most of who didn’t realize that it was part of the show:

imgp6470I am. But what does it mean, to be? I am what I do, I am what I want, I am my desire. As are we all; we are what we desire, now, in the present. But, if we desire, we are our future, we are what we wish to become. And this sets us apart from animals: we are capable of inventing our future and not merely awaiting it. This desire to become is nature’s most beautiful creation. A tree, a stone, an animal-none of these are capable of wanting to be what they are not, of transforming mere potential into action. —Augusto Boal

Reciting, the actor even kissed a man on the lips. Having eyes rolled up and side ways, the man being kissed equally expressed our surprise as well.

imgp6532I should say that it started well and fun, for such a damn serious, world’s not oldest but greatest, and most famous tragedy. Yes, eh? remembering watching the 3 hours movie by Olivier, I couldn’t help saying to myself: oh, God, it was slow and long, AND sad! Now we definitely see some new version of it, interpreted by a bunch of university kids around 20-25 years old.

The play was set among us the audience. In the play, Shakespeare had the play in the play where Hamlet engaged a show aiming at rocking up the conscience of Claudius, who assassinated his own brother-the King. For a moment, we don’t know if we are the audience watching Hamlet or the royal members and subordinates of Father Hamlet’s court watching the replay the scene of Hamlet’s father in the garden being poisoned through his ears.

imgp64942The play went on. Among the scenes, there were other actions which had nothing to do with Hamlet. The actors spoke English and French, even Quebecois French. I understood the English part, yet the French part had to be helped with the actions, even some actions didn’t tell me not much…

My mind went off and far away when they spoke French…Shakespeare, Romeo & Juliet, The Taming of the Shrew, Merchant of Venice, King Lear…I saw my father who was actually the first person who acquainted me with Shakespeare. I was 9 or 10, sitting by his feet, listening to him saying that Portia was such an intelligent lady who not even made the Duke win the case, but confiscated Shylock’s belongings… That was in about 1971, during the lonely evenings of China when the cultural revolution was trying its best to burn the books of Shakespeare…

imgp64891The whole play was re-written by twenty some students themselves. Each character in the play was played by many of them. Some times it could be confusing as to who was who now and who was who then. They used a big pair of sun glasses as the symbol for the Queen, the paper crown for the King and the person who had a bare foot was Hamlet.  We saw many versions of each character played by each different student as the symbols traveled among them…

Ophelia appeared with a whitish pale flower of magnolia in her hair -the prettiest, the most naive and innocent victim of the victim, the cute and meek girl of her father and the sister of her brother; the victim of vengeance and confusion, the short-lived magnolia flower who blossomed only 20 days in the Spring.  She fell from a tree into the cold brook,  drowned but still floating with her wreath on her blond curly hair, eyes still half-open singing some meaningless fractured tune that only her un-returned love would understand…

imgp6533My professor appeared as well in front of my eyes after 26 years. He taught the course: Shakespeare Appreciation. Whenever he came to Ophelia, we saw his eyes twinkle with sadness and Ophelia was the character whom he loved the most and he usually said to us: Beauty, naive innocent beauty lives like petals of flowers… After class, he would usually, wonder around the big campus reading all those posters and articles with his shabby dirty bike till evening came and his north-eastern born big and tall wife captured him for supper at home…

Oh, yes, the play now. What the %*&?$? were the two women with orange construction helmets talking about?! They were talking nonsense and obviously one chubbier girl talked better in Quebecois than in English! Yes, the bare foot of Hamlet, the paper crown of the King and the big black sun glasses of the Queen, they were all on the floor together with pieces of red silk symbolizing blood. All on the floor, all died and dead. Justice was rendered, but justice caused the end of the world leaving justice for us people now to chew and ponder…

Yes, we still have hope, because we are what we do. We are what we want. We are what we desire, we are our desire. We are what we desire, now, in the present. If we desire, we are our future. We are born too young into a world too old, yet the young can live their  lives in other ways which show positive energy and beauty, yet  no confusion, neither sadness nor tragedy! Naked Shakespeare, bare foot Hamlet! Our history, our present! As naked and genuine as our thoughts and as bare foot solid on the ground as our actions today!


Queen still has her first husband today!


Hamlet is no longer tortured by hatred and vengeance! He is not mad anymore and not hiding his love for the lovely, naive and innocent Ophelia!


Happy Ophelia today!


Confident and clear-minded King today!

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