REVIEW: Under the Radar Festival – Dickie Beau’s “Re-Member Me”
There are certain big roles in the canon that every great actor aspires to play, among them Hamlet, the dark and brooding Prince of Denmark. Whenever Shakespeare’s masterpiece is performed, the question on everyone’s tongue is who will step into this grand tradition and take his turn temporarily inhabiting the iconic titular role, for as critic John Peter so poignantly wrote, “the voice of drama speaks to us through actors.”
When British artist and actor Dickie Beau—who is best known for mastering the art of lip-syncing popularized by drag queens and transmogrified into his own works of “re-memberment”—realized he would never play the role of Hamlet, he did what all great artists do: he took the situation into his own hands and devised a one-man show using his distinctive, effervescent style of drag-inspired human puppetry.
“Re-member Me”, which plays eight performances as part of the Public Theater’s “Under the Radar Festival”, is Mr. Beau’s heartfelt tribute to Hamlet, using the words of great Hamlets past: Sir John Gielgud, John Barrymore, Peter O’Toole, and Kenneth Branagh, to spin his own version. Set on the stage of Robert Icke’s 2017 production of “Hamlet”, Mr. Beau lip-syncs to recordings of these famed actors, but the show, an actor’s perspective, is more about the experience of playing Hamlet, as interviews with actors talking about Hamlet take over, further shifting to focus on one particularly memorable Hamlet performance: Ian Charleson’s celebrated 1989 turn at the National Theatre in London, mere weeks before his death from AIDS.
Mr. Beau beautifully constructs the tale of that legendary four week run, using interviews with friends and actors of Charleson’s to literally “re-member” Charleson’s ghost as he slowly constructs a human body on a hospital bed from a collection of dismembered mannequins strewn about the stage, humorously akimbo and in flagrante delicto (such winks pervade his performance).
About half of his lip-syncing is pre-recorded and shown on screens above the stage, but far from cheapening the effect, it only embellishes our ability to observe Mr. Beau’s remarkable talent up close. And it is a unique experience to witness an actor use another’s voice in performance, especially when employing the audio of interviews that are full of pregnant pauses, stutters, coughing, and vocal ticks. Mr. Beau mimics them with aplomb and manages to make you forget he is lip-syncing at all.
One haunting fact about live theatre is that it happens, then is gone; save for recording, the only recorder is memory, bittersweet and precious. As Mr. Beau remembers and re-members a great actor, a great performance, and a seminal moment in British history (Charleson was the first prominent actor to die from AIDS in the United Kingdom), he weaves an ode to the very notion of acting and the gift of performance. His might be my favorite Hamlet.
at the Newman Theater
as part of the Under the Radar Festival
The Public Theater
425 Lafayette Street
New York, NY 10003
Wednesday, January 10th at 8pm
Thursday, January 11th at 3pm (sold out)
Friday, January 12th at 9:30pm
Saturday, January 13th at 1pm
Sunday, January 14th at 9pm