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ABOVE: Robin Deacon Presents Stuart Sherman's Hamlet: A Portrait (2010) Photograph by Howard Matthew


This performance was part of a long term project about the life and work of the late US artist Stuart Sherman (1945 - 2001). Described by one commentator as “the Buster Keaton of Linguistics”, Sherman was a key figure in the downtown New York avant-garde performance scene in the 1970's: “Sherman may best be known for his solo Spectacle performances, which usually took the form of quick-paced interactions with everyday objects over a table top. He created and performed eighteen Spectacles in total, twelve of which he performed solo, and six with groups of collaborators. A prominent theme of the Spectacles was Sherman's playful use of scale, either in the amplification of small gestures and details, or the miniaturization of theatrical spectacle.” [Electronic Arts Intermix]

This specially commissioned performance was a re-enactment of one of Stuart Sherman’s ensemble pieces, namely, his adapted version of Hamlet. Relative to Sherman's experimental approaches to performance, the reference point of Shakespeare’s text might be seen as quite unusual, but in an interview Sherman explained his motivations thus: "I...wanted to confront the split between avant-garde theatre and traditional theater, and thought one of the best ways to bring the debate to a head as it were, was to take a work like Hamlet and show what relevance my way of working would have." [Stuart Sherman, 1985]

The original piece was first shown in 1981, and other than my own restaging at the Chelsea Theatre in 2010 as part of the Sacred: US Radical season, it has never been staged since. A solo version of this piece (subtitled ‘A Careful Misreading’) was presented in 2012 as part of the Remake symposium, a collaborative research project between the Arnolfini venue and Bristol University, UK.


Remake Symposium, Arnolfini, Bristol, UK: 09.15.2012 / Sacred: US Radical, Chelsea Theatre, London, UK: 11.06.2010


Documentation of this performance (as part of Sacred: US Radical, Chelsea Theatre, London, UK, 2010) can be seen here. This footage is a split screen edit between my 2010 reenactment, and Sherman's 1983 version.


Stuart Sherman's Hamlet: A Careful Misreading, a 2018 essay by Robin Deacon detailing this project can be found here.



ABOVE: Robin Deacon Presents Stuart Sherman's Hamlet: A Portrait (2010) Photograph by Howard Matthew



ABOVE: Poster and original version of Stuart Sherman's Hamlet: A Portrait (1983), Mickery Theatre, Amsterdam.