hamlet(Lithuania) by William Shakespeare, directed by Eimuntas Nekrosius, with Andrius Mamontovas, Vytautas Rumsas, Dalia Zykuviene-Storyk, Viktorija Kuodyte, Kestutis Jakstas and Povilas Budrys. Presented by Meno Fortas at the Premiere Dance Theatre. April 16-19 at 7 pm.
even for the most experienced classical actor, the role of Hamlet is daunting. But what if you've never read the play before? What if you've never acted before? What if your only stage experience comes from hollering rock song lyrics to stadiums of music fans?That's the case with Andrius Mamontovas, frontman for the popular Lithuanian band Foje, who was tapped on the shoulder in 1997 by acclaimed director Eimuntas Nekrosius and his then-fledgling troupe Meno Fortas to play the depressed Dane.
"There were some jealous actors out there, but I thought if Nekrosius believes in me, then why shouldn't I believe in myself?" says Mamontovas, whose music was familiar to the director's kids.
Having performed the role now about 125 times, the musician-turned-actor compares it to a gruelling boxing match. But it's a challenge made easier by Nekrosius's stage wizardry.
"He can work magic with simple things," says Mamontovas on the phone from Vilnius. "He doesn't use high technology. He finds things inside movement and lines."
The production has been praised throughout Europe for its spare look, described as a combination of fire and ice. And at least in Lithuania, the presence of the rock star has attracted a younger demographic.
Mamontovas wrote the music for Nekrosius's recent production of Chekhov's Ivanov in Rome. He's also got his solo career. In the past, he's opened shows for Bryan Adams, Sting and Björk, yet is finding it difficult to break into the western market. As for theatre, it's difficult to follow Hamlet.
"Performing music gives you a lot, while theatre takes it out of you," he explains. "Theatre is also sado-masochistic. People onstage like to suffer, and the audience enjoys watching the suffering."
WORLD STAGE PREVIEW 2002 an international theatre festival with productions from Lithuania, England, Scotland, the Republic of Georgia and Canada. Presented by Harbourfront Centre at the du Maurier Theatre Centre (231 Queen's Quay West) and Premiere Dance Theatre (207 Queen's Quay West). Opens Wednesday (April 3) and runs to May 4. $35-$45. 416-973-4000.