The posy of a ring

Sunday 29th July 2012

CAST it over lunch on day one. They’ve played games, danced, improvised scenes on themes, done a read-through, expressed personal preferences. Now we have to trust our hunches.

Warm weather allows us to meet outside, grabbing a bite by the pond.

“They’re both very versatile. She could be Horatio and Guildenstern, he Polonius and Rosencrantz. Or why don’t we…?”

The average age is about fourteen. I am pigeon-liver’d and need more time.

Will he handle Hamlet? Did Bottom two years ago, but rangier now, with an adolescent edginess. How much should we ask of the youngest member, a twelve year-old Swiss girl, here to learn English?

You can’t please all of the people all of the time, but it is their week. If we give that speech to her and ask him if he’d like to…

The parts somehow fall into place.

Queen Gertrude nags herself for not immediately grasping ‘o’erhasty’. She goes arm-in-arm with our red-headed Claudius: every inch a king. I met him at a writing workshop last year. Imaginative actors, those two can direct themselves.

“Do the opening this afternoon, two scenes a day till Thursday. Learn your lines at home. No scripts when we do run-throughs.”

“What should we wear?”

We have no budget for props, commandeer a black stool as multi-purpose furniture, will raid the school’s costume store, and rely on the soundtrack to serve as end-of-scene lighting effects.

Prologue and dumb-show are staged: disciplined and decisive in the playing.

The tall Laertes doubles as the Ghost. I ask him to remove his glasses for the latter rôle, but this unsettles the short-sighted youth. He clips shades over them, reluctantly pushing thick curls under a hair-band.

“The ghost of Michael Jackson,” he declares, to much laughter.

Six hours ago, we sat in a circle as a dozen strangers. The cast have strutted with ease into adult rôles, donned responsibilities as doffing caps, eyed the Bard with merriment, and danced the posy of a ring.

‘Ere I could make a prologue to my brains, they had begun the play…





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