Bernhardt/Hamlet – Southbank Theatre (VIC)
Written by Theresa Rebeck. Directed by Anne-Louise Sarks.
Reviewed by Martha "MJ" Latham
Southbank Theatre, The Sumner
4th March - 15th April 2023
- A witty, poignant masterpiece that delves into the complexities of gender and art -
The Melbourne Theatre Company has a stunning new play in Bernhardt/Hamlet, directed by Anne-Louise Sarks. A witty and poignant masterpiece that delves into the complexities of gender and art in the late 19th century.
One of the play's most compelling elements is its exploration of the creative process. As Bernhardt and Rostand work to rewrite Hamlet, the play reveals the often-messy reality of bringing a theatrical production to life. From the clashes of artistic egos to the practical challenges of staging a play, the play offers a fascinating glimpse into the behind-the-scenes world of theatre.
Yet, for all its humour and insight, Bernhardt/Hamlet also touches on some of the more serious and enduring issues of gender inequality in the arts. Bernhardt's struggle to be taken seriously as an actress and her fight to play a role traditionally reserved for men highlights the ongoing obstacles faced by women in the arts. The play's political heart should resonate deeply with its audience, particularly at a time when gender inequality and sexual harassment remain critical issues in many industries, including the arts. Yet, Bernhardt/Hamlet manages to tackle these issues with a light touch, never sacrificing the play's wit and humour for heavy-handed messaging.
Photos by Pia Johnson
Kate Mulvany's portrayal of Bernhardt is remarkable. She brings a fierce and unapologetic energy to the role that captures the essence of the character's bold and audacious spirit. Her performance is both captivating and inspiring, showcasing the depth and range of her acting abilities.
The rest of the cast also delivers exceptional performances, bringing to life a diverse group of characters who add to the richness of the play's world. The play's production design is equally impressive, with Marg Horwell's stunning set and costume design immersing the audience in the world of late 19th century Paris. The lighting design by Amelia Lever-Davidson adds depth and texture to the play's various settings, while Joe Paradise Lui's sound design heightens the drama and emotion of the story.
More than just a delightful evening of theatre, Bernhardt/Hamlet offers a thoughtful and nuanced exploration of the challenges faced by women in the arts, both in the past and in the present. It is a testament to the power of storytelling and the enduring relevance of theatre as an art form.
Marco Chiappi Constant Coquelin
Tahlee Fereday Lysette
John Leary Louis
William McKenna Maurice
Kate Mulvany Sarah Bernhardt
Dushan Philips Francois / Worker
Sahil Saluja Raoul
Tim Walter Alphonse Mucha
Charles Wu Edmond Rostand
Izabella Yena Rosamond
Theresa Rebeck Writer
Anne-Louise Sarks Director
Marg-Horwell Set & Costume Designer
Amelia Lever-Davidson Lighting Designer
Joe Paradise Lui Composer & Sound Designer
Nigel Poulton Movement & Fight Director
Geraldine Cook Dafner Voice & Text Coach
Amy Hume Voice & Text Coach
Jacob Battista Associate Set Designer
Sophie Woodward Costume Associate
Tasnim Hossain Assistant Director
Amy Cater Intimacy Coordinator