Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Play's the Thing

A bunch of my friends are posting things they're grateful for all this month on Facebook.  I'm not that ambitious, but I WILL say, right now, that I am grateful for Five's incredible powers of observation.  Right in the heart of UB is a big red building, housing the National Academic Drama Theater of Mongolia.  I've walked past it at least a few times every week, but never given it much thought.  Well, over Greek food last week, Five asked what H looks like in Cyrillic, because she noticed the banners on the outside of the theater, and was pretty sure Hamlet was coming to town.  Well, as a matter of fact, it looks like this -> X, and even though the posters actually said "Gamlet," sure enough, that was the play the National Theater was opening the season with.  Don't ask me what ELSE they're playing this year, because the website is kind of a mess, but their production was awesome, even if it was in Mongolian.
However, since the website IS a mess it was a chore finding out anything about it.  I inspected the banners earlier this week, and wrote down a couple of phone numbers listed.  When I called one, I got the response of, "My English is no," so I asked our office Wonder Woman to give them a call and find out the particulars, then went into town to get us tickets (15,000 - 50,000 tugrugs).  This was a challenge as well, since the ticket office is not clearly marked.  I tried the front doors (all locked), then went in the side door, where I was told to go to the little red building to the side that I assumed was a guard house.  After going into that via the wrong door, and then running out to an ATM when I found out they couldn't accept my card, I FINALLY bought tickets.  I told the lady working there that I needed 6 tickets for Saturday.  She might have been English-is-No lady, because she sold me 6 tickets for Sunday, but we didn't figure that out until they were seating us, and as a result, we ended up in the theater box on stage left.  We were so close we could see the actors spray their glottal stops, but it made it really hard to see what was happening further back, since we had a piece of the set in our way.
I'm not sure what period the director had in mind, based on their sets and costumes.  The actresses were wearing glitzy formals that would not have gone amiss at a senior prom, and the men - mostly - had military style jackets.  A few notable exceptions were Claudius (who tromped around in a long black leather duster with red velour-looking pants and dark sunglasses), Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (who were dandied up with long, dangly rhinestone earrings and blingy rhinestone Michael Jackson gloves), and Gertrude (whose dress looked more like a robe, and showed off her thigh-high stockings and long, shapely MILF legs).  As I mentioned before, the whole thing was performed in Mongolian, which made me grateful for my high school AP English teacher, the Magnificent Mrs. Driml...otherwise I might not have had a clue as to what was going on!  Hamlet himself is above, and the actor, L. Jamsranjav, did an excellent job portraying his "madness," although in the other two staged productions I saw, he did a lot less crotch-grabbing, boob-fondling, and dry humping - the scene with his mother was particularly more explicit.
I LOVED how they handled the play-within-a-play scene.  Mongolia has a tradition of contortionism (remember?  I mentioned it in Song and Dance and Dog and Pony), and they integrated this into the play.  While the king and queen frolic in the front of the stage, other figures are doing likewise in silhouettes projected onto a silk screen.  Really interpretive and beautiful, if not exactly traditional.  Ophelia was portrayed by A. Ganchimeg, and while she was pathetic enough while being rebuffed by Hamlet, she really shone after Polonius' murder drives her mad.  She was a damn fine actress.
The play ran without an intermission, which was too bad because I started nodding off during Yorick's big scene, although I pulled it together for the big finale...which is good because I would have felt cheated if I'd missed seeing Laertes pull his wig off to reveal his mohawk (which Lit said reminded her of a Naadam wrestler's hairstyle) before his duel with Hamlet.  After retrieving our coats we saw people on the stage in the theater, and decided to go take a look, where we got invited onto the stage and asked by a camera crew what we thought about Gamlet (I'm just waiting for my students to tell me they saw me on tv saying, "VERY GOOD!")  It was a lot of fun - good friends, good actors, good production (even if we didn't get to hear the Bard's beautiful verse).


  1. Great! "We were so close we could see the actors spray their glottal stops"--excellent!

  2. Looks like fun. I would have loved to see a Mongolian take on Shakespeare.