TNT Theatre Britain, one of the world’s foremost touring companies, presents William Shakespeare’s most powerful tragedy Hamlet

Performed in English with Chinese subtitles

Hamlet is perhaps the most fascinating play ever written. It is also a complex and sometimes frustrating mix of different traditions, beliefs and source material. Prince Hamlet’s own problems are those of the audience.

What is the morally correct course of action? How should that moral end be achieved? What is the relationship between revenge and justice? There are three different original versions which vary in length. There are also at least two major sources that pull in different directions from Shakespeare’s own additions to the story. The famous “To be or not to be” speech is even omitted from the first published version (The Quarto).

The early sources are medieval and almost pagan, the later sources draw upon Catholic theology, while Shakespeare’s setting is contemporary and Protestant (Wittenberg being Luther’s University while the ghost explicitly describes Catholic Purgatory). The prince himself finds this difficult to digest stating clearly that death is “that undiscovered bourn from which no traveller ever yet returned” only a few scenes after meeting a ghost. Is it summer or winter? The ghost appears on a freezing castle battlement but two months earlier the old King was sleeping in his orchard, and two months later Ophelia floats to her death on a raft of flowers. Faced with these problems many modern productions simplify the story and concentrate on Hamlet’s “weakness” of procrastination or delay.

As Laurence Olivier says in the introduction to the 1948 film, Hamlet is the tragedy of a man who could not make up his mind. TNT’s new production will challenge this traditional idea and try to demonstrate that the confusions in the play reflect the confusions in the mind of Hamlet himself. Shakespeare is neither a dramatic poet not a realist or Romantic. He is concerned with powerful dramatic effect. We do not see the prince as being a man flawed by indecision, but a man paralysed by a moral problem.

It is surely not a tragic weakness that Hamlet refuses to kill Claudius at his prayers if we go along with Shakespeare and accept that Claudius would be forgiven if he goes to the final Judgement saying his prayers. The act of prayer reminds Hamlet (and the audience) that murder is wrong, even in revenge. Hamlet’s madness is both an act and a way of confronting the “rotten” state of Denmark with the truth. The play is a wonderful detective story and Hamlet hopes that the truth he is searching for will   answer his moral question.
His tragedy is not so much his own failure to act, but the essential human tragedy of death itself. Death is the ultimate truth and as Hamlet goes deeper he repeatedly confronts the death of those he loved or himself. Perhaps Hamlet succeeds on the stage (whilst being rather confused upon the page) because its central metaphor is the paradox of performance. It is the player’s performance that unmasks Claudius, it is Hamlet’s feigned madness that allows him to speak the truth and it is the play itself that holds a mirror up to our troubled human consciousness as it tries to make sense of morality and death.

After the success of Macbeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, director Paul Stebbings will continue the company’s exploration of Shakespeare’s major works in the spirit and style that reflects the playwright’s own time and theatrical resources.

TNT Theatre Britain
TNT Theatre was founded in 1980 by award-winning director Paul Stebbings and spans the disciplines of theatre, music and dance, using specially commissioned scores.
As one of the most popular touring theatre companies in the world, TNT gives over 500 performances each year across Britain, Europe, North America and Asia. Paul Stebbings was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2013 Queen Elizabeth’s Birthday Honours List for services to British theatre.

In China, TNT Theatre is well known and much loved for touring Shakespeare plays and Dickens adaptations. Since 2007, Milky Way Productions have presented TNT twice a year in spring and autumn. It has performed in all major cities and most provincial capitals in the country, from grand public arenas like the National Performing Arts Centre to university theatres in many other provinces.

Press Review
“Astonishingly inventive and wonderfully unpredictable, their visual inventiveness defies description.”  - THE SCOTSMAN, Edinburgh Festival

“TNT embodies all the qualities of British theatre.”  - SUDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG, Munich

“Touring theatre at its best”. - SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST, Hong Kong

“Highly effective and charismatic theatre.” - VILLAGE VOICE, New York.

“If young people need to be persuaded to go to the theatre this is the company to see.” – SUDKURIER, Germany

Time: 19.30, Nov 26 - 28 November 2014
Venue: Beijing 9 Theatre
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Time: 19.30, 12 - 14 December 2014; 14.30, 13 December 2014
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Time: 19.30, 16 - 17 December 2014
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Venue: Nanjing Cultural and Arts Centre
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Time: 19.30, 19 - 20 December 2014
Venue: Shandong Grand Theatre
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