I never really noticed studying Hamlet at an English school how distinctly unDanish the play and the main character is.
Dane name drain
For starters, there are the characters’ names. Where for fanden are Lars, Jens and Hans? Instead guarding Elsinore, we get Francisco, Reynaldo and Barnardo – three Italian mercenaries no doubt.
And why for satan is King Claudius named after a Roman emperor? Good luck getting that, along with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, approved by the municipality’s strict name policy.
Hamlet the happiness-killer
Overall, there’s a complete absence of Danishness – aye, there’s the rub, but no rug (brød).
When we’re introduced to Hamlet, we’re told he was too late to stop his mother marrying his uncle. But that would make him the first unpunctual Dane in history: “Err, 6:01 … I told you not to go through Kongens Nytorv … so sorry we’re late!”
Danes take pride in their honest, open approach to life in which they’re highly trusting, but Hamlet’s a conniving snake who talks in riddles and trusts nobody.
The average Dane could take a week before he musters up the courage to change his shampoo, but Hamlet’s so impulsive he bought flowers for a passing courtesan before he realised it was a houseplant sitting behind a statue.
Come on, Danes are the happiest people in the world. But Hamlet’s so morbid, continually obsessing with what happens to bodies after they die. Why doesn’t he just throw them to the lions like everyone else?
The man’s on permanent suicide watch: his idea of hygge is a night on the battlements or a morning spent in a graveyard.
And how about Queen Gertrude. She’s approaching her 50s and has only been married twice. What’s going on!
Some things never change
One thing Shakespeare did get right is that Hamlet is 32 years old and still at university.
And anyone who’s ever been to a Danish wedding will concur that Hamlet isn’t overdoing it in the monologue department. If anything, he’s brief, and as unintelligible as the average drunk uncle from southern Jutland.
And the Danish tendency to over-discuss matters at meetings – work, building, school parents, anything that might include coffee and cake – does fit in with Hamlet’s relentless … err … procrastination.
In the midst in awe
No doubt, there’s been a fair bit of second-guessing, contemplation and sitting around and eating cake among the actors getting ready for Hamlet Live (G3) – the exciting new addition to Kronborg Castle’s celebrations to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.
As LinkedIn reminded me the other day, I’ve been the editor of InOut for eight years, and in all that time, this publication has never previewed an experience that promises to be so unforgettable.
Being able to witness actors perform Hamlet in the very rooms in which it was set is like being up the Eiffel Tower and being pushed aside by a 58-year-old Roger Moore, liver spots and all, as he parachutes down into Paris, or looking out from the Empire State as a giant ape’s hand appears on the window ledge.
With the likes of Benjamin Stender (Hamlet) and Ian Burns (Polonius) on board, the quality will be sky-high, and all for the price of the admission.
Distorted reality beckons
Back in Copenhagen, the annual theatre festival CPH Stage (G3), now in its fourth year, gets underway on June 1. In this issue, we’ve previewed seven of the English-language productions on offer, but in total there are 24, offering 99 performances over 12 days .
Also starting early-doors is Distortion (G10), which for two pulsating days of street parties will be ripping the districts of Nørrebro and Vesterbo a new one.
There are plenty of Distortion kids options (G13), and the same is true of the Asian Culture Festival (G10 & 13) and Sankt Hans Aften (G11), but not Copenhell (G11), although Ozzy Osbourne is pretty cuddly.
Is Ozzy the biggest music star heading here – not by a long shot if you ask the Danes, who absolutely love Bruce Springsteen (G7). Among the other notables joining him are Muse, Teitur, and Tiesto (G6).
And finally, don’t forget to celebrate Father’s Day (G13). It was a joy sadly denied to dear old Hamlet, but then again, a few months later he was dead, innit, and couldn’t celebrate nuffink.