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This version of Hamlet was incredibly symbolic, so I’m going to focus on the symbolism of the dark debris that fills the stage. Near the beginning of Hamlet the banquet table darkly mirrors the supper Hamlet later talks about to Claudius, when he says Polonius is at supper, feeding the worms, As Isaac noted, the antlers on the table hint at the decay and death to come, even in the midst of celebration and life. The banquet is a safe place since Hamlet has yet to learn of his father’s murder which sparks the chain of events leading to the death of everyone.
Later however, the same room is layered with dirt, which to me symbolizes the characters being buried, basically to become a banquet for worms. Everyone ultimately will end up dead. In Hamlet, there is no natural death. It is always determined by other characters (except in the case of Ophelia who chooses to kill herself). The dirt burying the actors, to me, symbolizes the death question: Is it wrong to die an unnatural death, if we all end up in the same place anyway? Does who killed who matter if the characters all end up like the many skulls hidden in the debris?
Ophelia’s death scene will haunt me forever. When she faces the audience after playing the piano, her face holds real grief of losing a father. My roommate says Ophelia’s death is romantic because her heart was broken by Hamlet, but this production showed me that her death really comes from losing her father. If the dirt that fills the stage represents a grave, then it’s a beautiful moment when Ophelia crawls out of the grave and steps into the light, like she’s going to heaven. Then the light fades. Could it possibly be saying that suicide isn’t wrong, which seems a question Shakespeare poses in Hamlet?
Also, the photographs that Ophelia leaves behind are a cool symbol of preserving the past. Kind of like how Yorick’s skull is the only thing left of the man, photographs are all we have left of the tragic woman driven mad by her father’s death.
Anyway, can I just say how awesome Hamlet was? SO GOOD!