Set designer Theun Mosk designed the set and lighting for Hamlet Symphony. In a video interview he talks about the idea of placing a large frame on the stage. “In the stage opening at the Bourla, which is really also a frame, we place a smaller frame which creates a frame in a frame, a theatre in a theatre.” The resulting duplication could then be used by director Mokhallad and the actors to create scenes.
The idea of a theatre in a theatre comes straight out of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Apart from being about revenge in a family (a son’s revenge on his father’s murderer) and in politics (a crown prince’s revenge on the new king), Hamlet is also about making theatre. Hamlet looks for the truth about his father’s murder and creates a play to expose that truth and to prove that his uncle is the murderer. After Hamlet has seen the ghost of his father who exhorts him to take revenge, he decides to pretend to be mad to give himself the space to work out if he really did see a ghost. When a group of travelling actors comes to the castle, Hamlet welcomes them with open arms and the reader gathers from the dialogues that he already knows them. He spontaneously recites an excerpt from a play about a bloody murder he once heard them perform. In Hamlet’s monologue which follows he admires the actor who can put on a display of grief so convincingly for an imaginary character and despises himself for being unable to do anything after the real loss of his father.
Is it not monstrous that this player here,
But in a fiction, in a dream of passion,
Could force his soul so to his own conceit
That from her working all his visage wann’d,
Tears in his eyes, distraction in’s aspect,
A broken voice, and his whole function suiting
With forms of his conceit? and all for nothing!
What’s Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba,
That he should weep for her? What would he do,
Had he the motive and the cue for passion
That I have?
Hamlet realizes that seeing a play is a powerful experience, particularly when the spectator recognizes the situation enacted. He decides to have the actors perform a fratricide, so that he can see from King Claudius’ reaction if that is indeed what happened. Paradoxically enough, a fictitious story could lead Hamlet to the truth.
... the play 's the thing
Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king.
With a clear vision of Hamlet as a theatre-maker, director Mokhallad Rasem set to work on his production Hamlet Symphony. The death of his father was Mokhallad’s motive for making a play, just as it had been for Hamlet. Mokhallad could not attend his father’s funeral. He kept looking for a way to say goodbye to his father, and while reading Hamlet he saw that the story could be told through theatre. In Hamlet Symphony Mokhallad Rasem plays a theatre-maker named Hamlet who is looking for a way of coming to terms with his father’s death. This Hamlet tries to make a play, a masterpiece, and calls it his symphony. He hopes that this symphony will help him understand what is happening in his life and take control of it. Symphony literally means ‘harmony’ and in the show we see the director’s attempt to combine the different sounds, styles and languages. Moreover, Hamlet walks the tightrope between fiction and truth, between feigned and real madness. Because what if you have caught a glimpse of the truth? That makes Hamlet’s situation all the more complicated and drives a wedge between the people around him.
Combined with the set, Hamlet’s imaginary world and his real environment, the attempt at making theatre and theatre itself can increasingly spill over into each other. The rehearsals of Hamlet Symphony are now entering the last phase. Soon set and lighting will be installed in the Bourla and the various parts will come together in a unified production.