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             GERTRUDE LE CRI
Autumn 2002

Howard Barker's startling and revealing response to Hamlet.

This entirely new story exposes the sexual nature of the crime at the heart of Shakespeare's play. Powerful poetic language, provocative ideas and rich, dark humour build a compelling and erotic study of the sexuality and secrecy that seethe below the surface of Hamlet. In this new world of Elsinore, Howard Barker defends Hamlet's reviled mother and her adulterous affair with Claudius, depicting them as lovers driven beyond reason.

Gerturde is an original text in its own right, but also serves as a searing illumination and yet also a powerful challenge to our perceptions of Shakespeare's Hamlet, engaging with the text in a way that forces us to consider it in a new light.

In a constantly changing world, individual moral values must evolve to kep up. In his writing Howard Barker has often sought new moralities in the darker spaces of the world. Here, he unpicks Shakespeare to reveal the pain and passion of those normally considered to be guilty. Gertrude shows the essential pity that attaches to the immoral, and bestows on them a sort of innocence that challenges the ethics of both Shakespeare's time and our own.

The Wrestling School's production focused on the voice, language and the vocal expression of the text, taking it closer than ever before towards sung text as a means of clarifying and focusing rhythm and emotional content, reinforced by an accompanying soundscape.

Gertrude is directed by Howard Barker in the company's distinctive style, with the team that created the highly successful productions of Scenes From An Execution, He Stumbled and House of Correction. With striking designs from Caroline Shentang, an ensemble of high calibre actors use this extraordinary new play to draw audiences into an exhilarating experience that pushes back the boundaries of text based theatre.

Gertrude opened to great acclaim in the great hall of Elsinore Castle, Denmark as part of their annual international Hamlet Festival. The play was performed on a 100m long wooden catwalk runing up the middle of this huge room. Amid the huge oil paintings on all the walls and underneath elaborate chandeliers, the performers made long running entrances and allowed Howard Barker's rich powerful language to resonate amid this vast space.

Howard Barker on Gertrude          

Shakespeare on Gertrude

Further details from:  
The Wrestling School
42 Durlston Road 
London E5 8RR 
Fax: +44 (0)20 8442 4229  
or by email 



Supported by the Arts Council of England.

Hamlet on Gertrude..
You cannot call it love, for at your age the hey-day in the blood is tame, its humble, and wait upon the judgement…
Shakespeare's Hamlet  Act 3, Scene 4

Barker on Gertrude....
Shakespeare's moral sense and his role in a Christian/Reformation society compelled him to routinely punish transgression with guilty feeling, and Gertrude's sketchily described character is soddened with shame and regret. The unevenness of her portrayal, to which T.S. Elliot famously drew attention, compelled me, also a tragic writer but not burdened with the same religious sentiments, to attempt a new Gertrude. This one was to be passionate, defiant and more authentically tragic than the adolescent prince himself. Gertrude is bound to Claudius by an exquisite crime or the play hardly hangs together.

In shifting the focus to her fatal eroticism (a hypnotic regard which engulfs Claudius and wounds him grievously), I have set out to reinvigorate an ancient theme, annexed by Shakespeare from earlier texts, and turn it as he did to yet further extremes. As painters have always revisited the subjects of the masters, so dramatists must go back to plough the terrain of earlier works for fresh meanings pertinent to their time, an activity surely not reserved for stage directors alone.

Howard Barker



Automne 2002

La réponse saisissante et révélatrice d'Howard Barker à Hamlet.

Cette histoire entièrement nouvelle expose la nature sexuelle du crime qui est au cœur de la pièce de Shakespeare. Langage poétique puissant, idées provocantes et riche humour noir édifient une étude irrésistible et érotique de la sexualité et du secret qui bouillent à la surface de Hamlet. Dans ce nouveau monde d'Elsinore, Howard Barker défend la mère injuriée de Hamlet et sa relation adultère avec Claudius, les dépeignant comme des amants poussés au-delà de la raison.

Gertrude est en lui-même un texte original, mais sert aussi d'éclairage aigu et de défi puissant pour notre perception du Hamlet de Shakespeare, s'engageant dans une voie qui nous oblige à considérer le texte sous un nouveau jour.

Dans un monde en changement constant, les valeurs de la morale individuelle doivent évoluer pour se maintenir. Dans ses écrits, Howard Barker a souvent recherché de nouvelles moralités dans les espaces les plus sombres du monde. Ici, il découd Shakespeare pour révéler la douleur et la passion de ceux qui sont normalement jugés coupables. Gertrude montre le malheur essentiel qui est attachée aux immoraux, et leur confère une sorte d'innocence qui défie à la fois l'éthique de Shakespeare et la nôtre.

Cette production se concentre sur la voix, le langage et l'expression vocale du texte, le portant plus près que jamais du texte chanté, comme un moyen de clarifier et de fixer le rythme et le contenu émotionnel, renforcé par un accompagnement audio du compositeur Paul Bull.

Gertrude est mise en scène par Howard Barker dans le style distinctif de la compagnie, avec l'équipe qui a créé les productions les plus réussies de Tableau d'une exécution, de Il a trébuché et de Maison de correction. Dans un décor de Caroline Shentang, un ensemble d'acteurs de haute volée utilisent cette extraordinaire nouvelle pièce pour attirer les spectateurs dans une aventure vivifiante qui repousse les limites du théâtre d'auteur.

Traduction : Lauriane Pasdeloup