Hamlet summer school

Saturday 28th July 2012

“4,042 lines in its entirety, Hamlet runs for something in the region of four hours. What you are about to see, ladies and gentlemen, is closer to 44 minutes. We are, after all, living in an age of cuts.”

Yesterday evening, shortly before a costly extravaganza was seen across the globe, nine youngsters presented – in a small chapel, to an audience of twenty-two – an energetic and memorable show honouring one of history’s greatest works of literature.

From menacing Ghost to Ophelia’s muddy death; from courtly dance steps to precise poisonings; from the romps of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to the anguish of Gertrude and conniving of Claudius; from pulpit to pew to Polonius being impaled behind the arras: the play’s the thing.

The teenage company were spectacularly impressive.

In five days, they learned – and delivered, compellingly – dance routines, fight sequences, quick costume changes, a hundred exits and entrances, and 4,000 words. Although the lad playing the Prince confessed afterwards…

“I said weddings instead of marriages.”

…nobody would have noticed.

The final farewell didn’t quite come off: must do something else next time: you can’t stage the ending that comes after the ending.

The plan was for them to bow, exit the building, run down the path, re-enter the vast hall behind the wooden partition serving as the back wall of our intimate playing space, and form a tableau, as themselves, behind the screen.

While they did this, I said a few words to the audience of parents and relatives, telling them what a great week we’d had. The co-director, stage manager and I pushed the heavy screen aside to reveal the proud actors: lovely moment: more loud applause.

There were photographs, plaudits, a sort of milling: as if they wanted to do it all again tomorrow.

Show over, job done, start the get-out. I went up to the pulpit, to strike Hamlet’s chair and unplug the microphone, to be busy rather than be seen feeling suddenly bereft.

It’s hard, accepting that that is that.







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