For the first time ever, one of Shakespeare’s most iconic tragic plays is being turned into a Flamenco production. Hamlet is a tale of family, revenge, power and murder – and it is these aspects that make the story perfect for a Flamenco adaptation with their intensity and passion. It is not only the flamenco dance but also the local choir collaboration brings another layer to the production.
Hamlet, with its well-known narrative, was originally written by English playwright William Shakespeare sometime around the years of 1599 and 1601, and the detailed characterisations present in the play make it powerful for audiences through the generations. In other words, its themes and story are eternal – and the Flamenco assists in encapsulating this. The tragedy is set in Denmark, and it tells the story of the young Prince Hamlet who decides to take revenge against his uncle Claudius as a form of redemption in return for the murder of Hamlet’s father. The plot offers multiple avenues from which thematic intensity can arise, and these are communicated expertly through the medium of dance. For example, the different styles of Flamenco dance successfully capture the diverse characterisations in this story: for instance, the dance interpretation of the character of Hamlet is greatly distinct to that of Claudius and also Ophelia.
Moreover, seeing as Hamlet focuses on the trials and tribulations of the one eponymous protagonist, the use of Flamenco in this production allows a great deal of attention to be drawn to this one singular character. There are many instances throughout the production where the performer interpreting the role of Hamlet takes the centre stage, and his dynamic Flamenco dance coupled with the haunting singing of the choir in the background make for a particularly unnerving atmosphere. The use of Flamenco solos here is incredibly powerful and exhilarating. This is also highlighted in the ghost scene, where Hamlet is visited by his deceased father, the King. It seems that the dance of Flamenco is truly ideal for this scene, because the use of the dance seems to highlight the ‘unsaid’ tensions between the two characters, and therefore allows the viewers to process this trauma in an alternative way. To interpret this on both an academic and artistic level, it could be said that the medium of dance is perfect for this section of the narrative, because dance can allow the ‘unsaid’ or the ‘unconscious’ to be played out in a particularly hypnotic and enrapturing manner.
In addition, the relationship between the title character and Ophelia is of great significance in this play and must not be ignored. Hamlet and Ophelia experience a somewhat difficult connection, seeing as Ophelia is the daughter of Polonius, chief counsellor to the King. When Ophelia expresses her love for Hamlet, her father tries to smother this, conveying the idea that men had total power over women during this era. The dance sequences around this part of the plot greatly emphasise this, contributing to Ophelia’s heartbreak, which then of course lead on to her tragic death later in the production. There are several highly intimate scenes in the Flamenco between the characters of Hamlet and Ophelia, which are highlighted expertly through the use of the staging, music, choir, costumes and lighting. The different styles of Flamenco performed by the dancers interpreting the roles of Hamlet and Ophelia successfully capture the gender-based diversities between the characters which is fascinating and gives the production an additional layer through the study of gender.
Overall, it seems surprising that the artistic form of Flamenco has never been used to perform the story of Hamlet before, because the utilisation of this dance type appears to complement and even intensify the emotional effects of the play through physicalised means. This production refreshes the well-worn story written by William Shakespeare, making the audience acknowledge it in a different way, brought about through the medium of dance and specifically Flamenco.