Director Haris Pasovic has transformed Hamlet into a Muslim hero struggling to survive in an ancient Islamic superpower. “Something is rotten in the state of Turkey,” Pasovic says.”I learned a lot about Ottoman court, and it was very Shakespearian in essence. Stories like the one in Hamlet did happen several times in the 500 years of Ottoman history.”
Pasovic wants his production, which is showing at the Bosnian National Theatre in Sarajevo, to speak to both Muslim communities and the wider world. “Every time has its own Hamlet,” he says. “It’s palpable today that, as Shakespeare said, the time is out of joint. We live in a fractured world.”
The Pasovic Hamlet is one of the largest co-productions the Balkans have seen for 20 years – artists from Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia and Slovenia are involved. Pasovic says the multicultural casting was not political; he wanted to work with artists he appreciated.
Zagreb, Belgrade and the British Council have all contributed funding. Pasovic plans to approach the Barbican about staging his show in London, too. A renowned theatre director in Bosnia, Pasovic is well known for avant garde and experimental productions. In 1993, he worked with Susan Sontag on her candlelit Waiting for Godot in the then-besieged Sarajevo.
Hamlet has become a Muslim prince at the Ottoman court in an adaptation of Shakespeare’s tragedy which its Bosnian director says reflects the world after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.
In possibly the biggest theater co-production the war-torn Balkans region has seen in some 20 years, Haris Pasovic is seeking to put “Hamlet” into a 21st Century setting.
Just as Ottoman princes wore undershirts embroidered with Islamic prayers before they went into battle, Pasovic’s Hamlet wears an undershirt on which the line “To be, or not to be — that is the question” is printed in Arabic script.
It was well received in Sarajevo, a traditionally multi-ethnic city dominated by moderate Muslims since the war.
Pasovic is renowned for his experimental approach to theater. In 2002 he staged a post-modernist interpretation of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” in front of the bombed out parliament building in central Sarajevo.
This time he chose the Ottoman court for its resemblance to Shakespeare’s Danish one, where characters vie bloodily against one another for control over the throne and the court’s affairs.
The play, set in obviously Eastern, though minimalist scenery, is visually striking with colourful costumes and mystical music performed live on stage.
Shakespeare’s tragedy as an encounter of civilizations
Novi list, Croatia
Actors and actresses conveyed a message of civilization and culture.
Dnevni avaz, Sarajevo
The place and the time are absolutely irrelevant and what is relevant is the relationship between an individual and the authority. Each authority is surrounded with intrigue, will to gain power, manipulation, and treason – be it at the micro-level (family), or macro-level (sultan’s court). Political games are played everywhere and, instead at the Danish court, Pasovic has placed his Hamlet at the Ottoman court, in a Muslim environment. In the time, when unnecessary animosities between the East and the West, between Christian and Muslim worlds, are being forced upon us, when Western civilization, in its theoretical considerations, arrogantly puts Orient in the position of the Other, such an interpretation is not surprising at all. Without diverting and adapting Shakespeare’s text to the new context (except for adding Turkish titles and greetings), Pasovic has merged very delicately an Oriental culture and an Occidental text, wishing to warn us that between those two worlds there are more similarities than differences… With his youth and his energy, Amar Selimovic was an excellent choice for the main role… Slaven Knezovic has given to his Polonius certain playfulness, interpreting him with dynamism and wit. Damir Markovina, playing a low-key Horatio was also excellent….
Slobodna Dalmacija, Croatia
A firm narrative of a tragedy at the Turkish court…. Pasovic transformed King Claudius – played brilliantly by Frano Maskovic – into a sultan and something very interesting happened: Hamlet functions better at the Turkish than at the Danish court…
Jutarnji list, Croatia
A brilliant production…
Intelligent and brave…
The Hamlet-Ophelia-Horatio triangle, besides powerful forces of love among them, carries a tension of unity in tragedy, as well as in a vengeful drive, which gives to the individual revenge a force of generational revolt, both tragic and sacrificial. This force of the urge to put the world back into its joint is best seen in the acting of brilliant Amar Selimovic, an actor whose body literally suffers throughout the performance, ranging from an irritating rush, trough physical pain of someone who is beaten up, to the psycho-physical agony of someone who is a culprit and a righteous in the same time…
Radio 101, Croatia
Music is what gives rhythm, atmosphere and soul to this «Hamlet»
The whole production and particularly the cast made a very strong impression on me. Amar Selimovic possesses an incredible acting energy and a brilliant career lies ahead of him…
Josko Juvancic, legendary Croatian theatre director
Pasovic’s «Hamlet» in Zagreb – Amar Selimovic won both public and critics…
The «European Theater at ZKM» cycle is this seasons’ hit in the theater life of Zagreb….All the three performance of the Sarajevo production of «Hamlet» was sold out…
Standing ovations for masterful directing