A Review of SHAKEspeare

by Zorica Bečanović Nikolić
University of Belgrade

Armenian Small Theatre’s SHAKEspeare
Idea, concept and staging: Vahan Badalyan
Choreography: Tamara Aydinyan

Photos: NCA Small Theatre


Armenian Shakespeare Association’s conference Shakespeare 400: The Enigma of Endurance happily coincided with the annual Shakespeare Theatre Festival, which offered to the participants of the conference from all over the globe a unique opportunity of seeing contemporary plays inspired by Shakespeare in this part of the world. Armenian Small Theatre presented 60 minutes of imaginative and most energetic dance entitled SHAKEspeare. Given that Tamara Aydiniyan’s choreographic invention and the ensuing nimble, expressive and captivating bodily movements of young theatre actors Christina Danielyan, Narek Minasyan, Ashot Marabyan, Marianna Poghosyan, Mher Zalinyan and Manuk Saghatelyan, as well as of Tamara Aydiniyan herself, create the essential part of the performance, this production could be described as post-dramatic non-verbal theatre. Nevertheless, Armenian Small Theatre’s SHAKEspeare doesn’t shake off Shakespeare’s words. A collage of quotations from Hamlet, Macbeth, King Lear, Othello, Romeo and Juliet, Richard III and Richard II, insightfully edited by Vahan Badalyan, director of the piece, accompanies the dance as a voice over soundtrack consisting of famous recordings in English. The quotes are obviously chosen with the intention of marking the most disturbing and at the same time most cathartic and invigorating moments in human life, as expressed by Shakespeare in the tragedies and history plays. The other focus of this performance is undoubtedly meta-dramatic and meta-theatrical: simultaneous stimuli of read verse and physical expressions keep the audience thinking about the role of the theatre itself, and of their current thrilling encounter with the happening on stage.


Resourceful imagination is equally expressed by the projected light and occasional video clips by Vahram Manukyan and Albert Movsesyan. The stage itself is entirely empty, with no immobile objects, but the movable scenography designed by Vahan Badalyan, with participation of Narek Minasyan, is fashioned by geometric shapes and floating transparent cloths in white/crimson/black, thus functioning as a semantic companion of the dance.  Animated stage light and scarce scenography should be counted among the protagonists of the performance.


This physical and visual, abstract and symbolic theatre experiment brings about a series of deep, truly felt, vitally appropriated sensations coming out of the encounter with Shakespeare’s words. Its fruition appears in the choreographic expressions of the ineffable surfeit, which often has to be recognized as an answer to the poetic and ontological portent of Shakespeare’s art. Our thoughts only modestly helped “deck their kings”. The dancers enthrallingly carried them, and us, “here and there, jumping o’er times, turning the accomplishment of many years into an hour-glass.”