“To tell our Storie”: reflections on a queer adaptation of Hamletin twenty-first century South Africa
From my actor-director’s point of view, ‘decolonising’ Shakespeare means not to keep to the original, ‘traditional’ concept of performing and interpreting Shakespeare’s plays; it means giving them my voice as a gay white male. Hamlet’s “To be, or not to be” soliloquy incited me to approached Hamlet from a queer perspective. This article reflects on how I approached the play, without forcing the queer issue, by looking at the relationship between Horatio and Hamlet. Horatio is present in key moments of the play, and most of their interactions are when they are alone. By doing a close reading of the play, identifying queer cues, I adapted the play with Hamlet and Horatio in a same-sex relationship. Reading Hamlet from a queer perspective answers the question as to why Horatio is in Elsinore and present at key moments in the play. By placing Hamlet and Horatio in a same-sex relationship, Horatio’s presence becomes more meaningful. The interpretation of the “To be, or not to be” soliloquy, the ‘nunnery scene’, the ‘mousetrap scene’ and his exile adds a new layer to the character of Hamlet, and by extension Horatio. Next, I reflect on the performance of the queer adaptation, which was done in 2014 at the University of the Free State with a professional cast, co-directed by Peter Taljaard and myself. I offer a close reading, in chronological order, of the adaptation, highlighting key moments in the play that were used to establish Hamlet and Horatio’s relationship, while referring to interpretation choices made by my co-director and myself.