Within this wooden O

Tuesday 31st July 2012

OH, ER… not quite what I was hoping for: my reaction on being shown the huge, hexagonal school hall with its cold walls and countless rows of blue-grey chairs.

“So where in this vast arena do you think we should stage our Hamlet?” I’d asked the company on the first morning.

“In the middle?” wondered the bright-eyed girl soon to become Gertrude.

“There’s always the chapel,” suggested later-Claudius, who is far cleverer than boys his age should be.

Once inside the oval-ish wooden O – with the altar removed, giving us a carpeted, central dais, and orchestral (in the Greek sense) performance space, semi-circled by choir stalls able to seat maybe sixty on-lookers – it was like being inside a smaller Globe Theatre: acoustically gentle on voice and ear, intimate, and timeless in its consecrated setting.

Watching the lanky Laertes, perched on a pew while watching Ophelia’s distress at Hamlet’s noble mind o’erthrown…

hearing his slings and arrows flung from high pulpit while daemons dance nightmare scenes below…

nodding with quiet satisfaction when the audience realises the mobile phone beep came from Horatio’s pocket: a text message from King to Prince…

while realising that not once this week have any of them spent time playing with things digital-portable…

and, recalling seeing them sitting, in a circle, on the grass, eating ice-creams, half an hour before curtain-up…

…I want to bundle the whole company into a mini-bus, charge up to Edinburgh, and take the place by storm.


Exeunt omnes: the stage manager on her way to the Playhouse with sound system and staves, looking forward to a first free weekend in weeks; my daughter rushing off with friends, rucksack and sleeping-bag, heading for the Wye Valley; the young players now being driven back to their homes, one or two perchance humming snatches of the melodious lays, or murmuring to themselves some of Shakespeare’s words, words, words.

I cross the hall, turn off the lights, and close the door behind me.

The rest is silence.







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