Queensland established award winning company, The Danger Ensemble, has relocated to Melbourne bringing their highly lauded and provocatively titled theatrical experience, The Hamlet Apocalypse, with them. Opening next month at Theatre Works, The Hamlet Apocalypse is billed as a dystopia of the now generation – a silent party, a desperate plea, a rambunctious prayer. A unique season not to be missed.
The company started developing this work while they were on the Who Killed Amanda Palmer: World Tour, explains director (and Artistic Director of The Danger Ensemble), Steven Mitchell Wright.
“We were on a massive international tour at the time with Amanda Palmer – a theatre piece built around her solo album Who Killed Amanda Palmer – it was our Christmas break and we’d been on the road doing the same show all over the world for four months, and we only had two months of the tour to go. I knew we’d want something to sink our teeth into when it was over. I knew we wanted to start with something big so I put it to the actors that we dive into either the start of the world, or the end of it. The actors were much more drawn to the end of the world. So we hired a theatre and dived in.”
Intriguingly linked to Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the work began as an exploration of the apocalypse in all its forms.
Says Wright; “Throughout the very early stages of development we were making choices that left the actors present as themselves on stage, dealing with the end of the world, and that those actors were in a theatre. We reached a point in development when it felt like they needed a reason to be in the theatre in the first place.
I had a suspicion that Hamlet would work as the text – so the next day in the room we read Hamlet and read it with the knowledge that the world was ending, and it clicked straight away. The existential musings and rhetoric of Hamlet became urgent or concrete in that light.”
Wright created the company in 2007 with the vision behind it to create work that investigates what theatre is for now. “We don’t believe in the assumption that what theatre was 2000 years ago, 100 years ago or even last year still works now, ” he explains. “We believe that we must respond to the times and to the current world. Audiences and artists are changing rapidly and so must we.”
The ensemble is interested in creating exciting, challenging, visually rich, moving and arresting works. Wright explains that the genre and form of the work changes with the content and mode of performance with the ultimate aim to never ever be boring. ” We’ve worked across 16 countries, festivals, theatres, with orchestras, with musicians, with dancers – and our work changes a lot, but what stays consistent is the pursuit of relevance and excitement,” he says.
The company is also highly collaborative, building their works on the floor. Wright acknowledges their belief in the collaborative process and creating work that has more than one voice or one question.
Wright’s philosophy of a kind of free flowing common creative consciousness extends towards questions of themes and audiences’ process. “I don’t feel like it’s my place to discuss the themes in a work, ” he says. “I believe that exploration of thematics, motifs and enquiry all takes place in development and rehearsals, and once the show is complete it’s up to the audience to take what they want from the work. I would hate to dictate an audience member’s experience of the work by telling them what it is about or why we made the choices we did – our reasoning is secondary to the audience experience.”
After being based in Brisbane for 10 years, the company have relocated to Melbourne. They have had great success with their works there, and internationally. Says Wright about the move: “It was a combination of things but primarily it was to make ourselves uncomfortable. To force us to redefine ourselves, and to introduce ourselves to new audiences, venues and organisations.
We love Brisbane and it will always be our home – but our house is now in Melbourne. Our work has always responded to the culture and people around it, being in a new city will allow us to expand the voice of our work and find new things to say and new ways of saying them.
On a personal level, I was too comfortable in Brisbane and I was ready to live somewhere else. The move was, and continues to be, scary but that’s important as artists and humans. Comfort feeds stagnation, and stagnation breeds death and complacency.”
The move is bold as is this company who are known for their raw, unsettling and challenging out-put. Theatre Works has become a good fit for many companies thinking outside the box of what theatre should look like. Says Wright: ” We chose this work very specifically as our maiden work as a Melbourne based company, and partnering with Theatre Works is the perfect fit. ”
The Hamlet Apocalypse is a show that has appealed to such a broad range of audiences across the five different seasons it’s had. It’s moving, it’s funny, it’s heartbreaking, it’s experimental and accessible. ” I think of it kind of like a passionate and wild first date. We’ll set everything up, you just come along and let’s see how things go,” says Wright.
November 7 – 18