There were so many things potentially working against the performance: the late hour, the minimal rehearsal time, not to mention the madly ambitious attempt to stage three texts of Hamlet at once. But none of that could damper the power within Jemma Levy’s Believe None of Us.
While most discussions of the relationships between the various extant copies of Hamlet slip into argument, Levy’s visionary project puts the texts in conversation, rather than debate, with each other. Instead an adaptation, conflation, or appropriation, it was (as Ben Crystal described it) an explosion.
Joining Crystal (Folio) as the embodiment of the Dane were Alex Fthenakis (Q1) and Sean Hagerty (Q2), each not only playing a different text but also a different character. Yet despite differing styles, accents, and mannerisms, the stage felt balanced between the Hamlets, even as they talked over, interrupted, and corrected one another. Somehow, three actors playing Hamlet felt entirely natural.
Further coloring the scenes were Matt Davies and Sara Hymes playing Claudius and Ophelia respectively. Their brief interactions illuminated differences in the character of the texts while still managing to cohere with the whole.
I cannot articulate how the parts and pieces melded–no matter how I phrase it, it still sounds like pure insanity. And it was, because one of the most performed texts of all time came to life and affected me in ways I did not expect through careful performance, masterful editing, and the power of theater.
As a person of language, being unable to articulate and recreate with words the experience frustrates me endlessly. I want to chronicle and quantify what I saw and felt, but I can’t. All I can do is ruminate in the memory, and give such madness a good chance.