The Best of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia


Paris, 1899: legendary French actress Sarah Bernhardt is world-famous … and broke.

In an attempt to turn her fortunes around, Sarah Bernhardt attempts to do what no other woman has done before and set her sights on the only role she feels worthy of the greatest actress of the century; Hamlet, much to the horror of traditionalists along the way. Written by US playwright Theresa Rebeck, the play focuses on Bernhardt’s struggle with Shakespeare’s epic text, and her own inner doubt as to whether or not she is up to the task.

Starring the legendary Kate Mulvany in the role of Sarah Bernhardt, words cannot do justice to the sheer brilliance of her performance. The complexity of playing the greatest actress of all time both in her element on the stage and then her turmoil behind the scenes is no easy feat and yet, Mulvany commands the stage with her every word and action. Her energy is explosive and the contrast between her delivery of both the comedic and dramatic sides of the role is exceptional. Mulvany is joined by a large ensemble of performers including Charles Wu as playwright Edmond Rostand, Marco Chiappi as fellow player Constant Coquelin. The cast is very strong and expertly directed by Anne Louise Sarks.

The scale of the show is epic. Marg Horwell’s set design in spectacular, from the massive cloths that represent the interior and exterior of the Elsinore castle in Hamlet to the opulent styling of the inside of Bernhardt’s dressing room, it is a feast for the eyes. Horwell’s costume design is equally as well designed, from the stunning dresses to the pantaloons and Hamlet’s ridiculous wig.

The Melbourne Theatre Company have truly produced a truly remarkable work in Bernhardt/Hamlet. It is a timeless explorations for gender and equality and highlights the brilliance of a woman who was clearly ahead of her time. Make sure you book in to see this show before it is gone.

The Details:
  • Playing at the Melbourne Theatre Company, Southbank until April 15
  • For more information, and to book tickets: Bernhardt/Hamlet
  • Written by: Michael Kent
  • Images: Pia Johnson