Five clowns central to Danish Play

Turning the tragic into the hilarious is what performing Shakespeare’s Danish Play is all about for a Company of Fools.

Turning the tragic into the hilarious is what performing Shakespeare’s Danish Play is all about for a Company of Fools.

“Shakespeare’s Danish Play is actually two stories,” said Scott Florence, one of the co-founders of the Company of Fools and a performer in the play. “It’s the story of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and it’s also a story of five clowns attempting to perform it.”

According to Florence, there has been a superstition in theatrical circles for several centuries that Macbeth is a cursed play, and that Shakespeare actually used real witches’ spells in the play.

“There is a long and storied history of tragic events happening,” he said, referring to prior productions of Macbeth throughout the years.

In The Danish Play, five clowns want to put on a production of Hamlet, believing that Hamlet is actually Shakespeare’s cursed play. Humour and hijinks ensue as these vaudeville performers try to replicate one of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies.

“A lot of actors won’t refer to Macbeth by name,” said Florence. “They’ll call it the Scottish play. The clowns refer to Hamlet as the Danish Play, and everything that can go wrong does go wrong.”

One of the goals of the production is to be accessible to both fans of Shakespeare and the uninitiated.

“We’re not re-enacting the play,” said Alix Sideris, a newcomer to the Company of Fools who performs in the production. “But what it does do is that it may inspire people to read the play. We take a very classic play and offer it in such a way that it may intrigue (the audience) to read it.”

Merging clowns and fools within tragedy has always been a Shakespearean staple, even in his most tragic of plays. Shakespeare’s Danish Play takes that idea and runs with it by turning all the performers into fools. Shakespeare “believed in the power of laughter, and we’re just taking that and pushing it,” said Sideris.

A Company of Fools got its start in Ottawa in 1990, and The Danish Play represents the 20th anniversary of the production in its 21st season; Florence has been a part of it since the beginning.

“We’re an Ottawa-based Theatre company,” he said. “Part of our mandate is to create more original theatre for Ottawa audiences and then bring that theatre to audiences across Canada. We’re here to say that Ottawa is not the city where fun went to die, it’s the city where fun is coming to you.”

Want to go?
• Shakespeare’s Danish Play runs at the Gladstone Theatre from Jan. 28 to Feb. 27.

• Tickets are available at the Gladstone Theatre box office at 910 Gladstone Ave., or by calling 613-233-4523. Or, you can visit the Gladstone Theatre website at www.thegladstone.ca.

 
 
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