Because the Nightwas conceived during Melbourne’s long second lockdown, which began in the depths of winter. An immersive theatre experience loosely based on Shakespeare’s Hamlet, it reflects that period’s darkness, uncertainty and social upheaval, while also responding to last year’s live-performance wasteland by letting cast, creatives and audience loose in a vast, detailed set.

Artemis Ioannides in Malthouse Theatre's Because the Night Artemis Ioannides in Malthouse Theatre’s Because the Night. Photo © Pia Johnson

Conjured and directed by Malthouse Artistic Director Matthew Lutton, who co-wrote Because the Nightwith Kamarra Bell-Wykes and Ra Chapman, this 90-minute experience is propelled by six characters. Most are familiar figures from Hamlet: the titular prince; his mother Gertrude, widow of the late king; royal adviser Polonius; his children Ophelia and Laertes. Instead of Claudius, however, we have newly crowned Queen Claudia, sister of the former king. Other notable divergence includes Elsinore being a logging town in which the workers are rebelling and the forest seems to be fighting back. Significantly, there’s no Shakespearean language; dialogue is contemporary Australian.