Lip-syncing to Hamlet surely counts as one of those has-to-be-seen-to-be-believed ideas. Creator and performer Dickie Beau brings such skill to miming the words of others he might change your opinion about lip-syncing itself. But Re-Member Me has far more to recommend it – the show is original, startling and stirring theatre.
Beau uses recordings of previous performances as well as interviews with those who have worked on productions of Hamlet (big names include Ian McKellen and Richard Eyre). All are expertly edited, and the generous contributors come off very well. What they have to say is interesting and smart, but it is also funny and humble. Beau is generous, too. He even allows the opinions of a critic – what a wonderful, clever man he is!
And what does Beau do with this impressive material? Through an intelligent engagement with Shakespeare’s play, the concern here is mortality. Much of the piece focuses on Ian Charleson, the actor who performed in Eyre’s Hamlet just before he died. And John Gielgud features, with recordings from late in life. Re-Member Me can be thought of as a tribute show.
The action is paced perfectly by director Jan Willem Van Den Bosch. There’s a lot going on, but big ideas are given time to breath. One concern might be that the audience needs to know a lot about Hamlet and its performance history to enjoy all this. But, while appealing to lovers of the theatre, the craziness of the idea itself – that lip-synching – proves a great strength.
The technique adds humour (its mostly used for comedy, after all), which Beau embraces with mischievous touches. There’s a fantastic thrill from not knowing what’s going to happen next, especially when it comes to the songs woven in. Meanwhile, cleverly using mannequins point us towards the uncanny. The dummies are redressed and reassembled with an obsessive intensity. By mouthing the words of others, some of them deceased, Re-Member Me is a reminder of the impermanence that theatre and life share. The results are moving and profound.
Until 17 June 2023
Photo by Tristram Kenton