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Desirť Goliath

Production: Hamlet
Written by: William Shakespeare
Director: Janet Suzman
Designer: Peter Cazalet
Lighting designer: Mannie Manim
Cast: John Kani (Claudius), Dorothy Ann Gould (Gertrude), Rajesh Gopie (Hamlet), Roshina Ratnam (Ophelia), Royston Stoffels (Polonius), Adam Neill (Horatio), Clyde Berning (Laertes), Marcel Meyer (Rosencrantz), Brett Goldin (Guildenstern) with Adrian Collins, Tauriq Jenkins, Mbulelo Grootboom and Duncan Macfarlane.

William Shakespeare's most famous and immortal tragedy, Hamlet, comes to the Baxter Theatre from 7 to 30 July, straight off the Grahamstown Festival main circuit.

Directed by internationally respected South African-born director and actor Janet Suzman, the formidable cast is led by multiple award-winning actors John Kani (Nothing But The Truth, Antigone) as Claudius, Dorothy Ann Gould (Talley's Folley, Stevie) as Gertrude and Rajesh Gopie (Out of Bounds) as Hamlet.

The Academy Award-nominated Suzman says of her cast, "If Kani and Gould are royals of the South African stage, Rajesh Gopie is an heir apparent." Nadine Gordimer has hailed Gopie, who plays the Prince of Denmark, as "an actor of amazing range".

Suzman's distinguished acting career includes many major roles at the Royal Shakespeare Company and in the West End of London. She has twice won The Evening Standard Best Actress Award and earned Academy Award and Golden Globe Nominations for Nicholas and Alexandra. Other films include The Draughtsman's Contract, The Singing Detective, A Dry White Season, Fellini's E La Nave Va, Nuns on the Run. Her Hedda Gabler was chosen as the BBC's 50th Anniversary Play of The Month repeat. In 1987 she directed Othello with John Kani in South Africa, and filmed it for Channel Four TV. She has written and directed her own response to Chekhov's Cherry Orchard set in post-apartheid South Africa and renamed The Free State. She has just finished a run in the West End of Whose Life is it Anyway? with Kim Cattrall.

Celebrated designer Peter Cazalet is responsible for the set and costume design, with lighting design by the award-winning Mannie Manim.

Based on a 12th-century tale, Hamlet is the first work of literature to show an ordinary person looking at the futility and wrongs in life. Hamlet asks the toughest questions and comes up with honest semi-answers.

Suzman says, "It's a play about children and parents, about lying and killing, about sanity and madness, about making jokes when things are at their worst. It is a play about being ready for what is demanded of you in life, but most of all it is about finding out who you are and what you are made of, and that is why it is the most universal of plays."

In a world of random violence - too many guns, too many knives, too much mindless murder - where a life is far too often valued at nought, this play is revelatory. It centres on a young man, still a student, who cannot bring himself to kill the man who killed his own father. We watch Hamlet grow towards a moving maturity as this always fascinating drama explores death in all its aspects - and what is most precious in life.

Shakespeare's masterpiece resonates with questions that defy simplistic answers, allowing infinite possibilities for interpretation. This new staging of the cathartic tragedy promises an immediate and vivid reframing of a complex theatre experience.

Leading Hollywood men Mel Gibson, Ethan Hawke, Kenneth Branagh have all played the anguished Prince on mainstream big screens in recent years, making Hamlet's soliloquy "to be, or not to be" one of the most famous theatre quotes in the world.

Hamlet previews at the Baxter on 7 and 8 July, opened on Saturday 9 July, and runs till 30 July. For block bookings, schools bookings, charities, corporate events, packages and fundraisers please call Sharon on (021) 680 3962 during office hours.

Book at Computicket or the Baxter Theatre on (021) 680 3989.

LitNet: 15 July 2005

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