Re-Member Me

Dickie Beau
Hampstead Theatre
Hampstead Theatre

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Dickie Beau in Re-Member Me Credit: Tristram Kenton
Dickie Beau in Re-Member Me Credit: Sarah Lewis
Dickie Beau in Re-Member Me Credit: Robin Fisher

”Remember me,” growls the ghost of Hamlet’s father exiting through the cellarage as dawn sends him back to torment. Bur what of the Hamlet; will he (or she) be remembered? Live theatre performance is ephemeral, that night’s performance survives only in the memory of those who saw or performed it, though film and sound technology can now make a partial recording. Re-member Me combines memories and technology in 70 minutes of strangely compelling exploration of Hamlet performances.

Creator Dickie Beau’s original idea was a performance of Hamlet lip-synched to a mash-up collage of recordings of famous past Hamlets such as Gielgud, Olivier and Burton, but that changed after conversations about which might be interesting to be more about discussions about various performances. Its première staging was on the set of Robert Icke’s Almeida 2017 production of Hamlet, followed by international touring which was cut short by COVID.

Directed by co-devisor Jan van den Bosch, it is a mixture of live action (some of it shadowplay) and carefully edited video and sound recording that ranges from The Village People’s "YMCA" to a row of talking heads (all a lip-synching Beau) which each channels the voice of a particular actor or and director while below them a live Beau re-members in another way, re-assembling a mannequin’s dismembered limbs.

There are indeed soundbites of famous Hamlets, but the emphasis shifts to interview comment about them with Sir Richard Eyre crediting seeing Peter O’Toole’s Dane as what set him on a career in theatre, Sir John Gielgud remembering Dame Edith Evans advising him that if his Hamlet “cried a little less the audience would cry a little more”, Daniel Day-Lewis halted mid-performance by his own ghosts and then to centre discussion on a remarkable Hamlet of which there is no recording: that of Ian Charleson who took over from Day-Lewis in 1989.

Re-Member Me begins as a light hearted, campy theatrical look at Hamlet and performing what has become a defining role in British theatre, but what begins as entertaining and anecdotal becomes very moving as Beau, dressed in sports kit that links him with the images we see of Charleson in Chariots of Fire, mouths to the memories of those who witnessed his Hamlet first-hand, of those who knew that he has AIDS and could see its lesions.

I don’t know what aims this production began with, but it becomes a memorial to Charleson and the many whom AIDS claimed. Live Beau, rearranging props on the stage floor to no obvious purpose, risks being a distraction, but the voices his many faces lip-synch above his head allow no competition. This is an accomplished creation that may stir your own memories.

Reviewer: Howard Loxton

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