Posts Tagged ‘Hamlet’

23rd February to 2nd April were marvellous weeks in RSC History. The productions of KING LEAR and ROMEO AND JULIET on our new main stage deservedly received great acclaim as did the brilliant restaging by Michael and his company of ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA in the Swan. The final performance of that production was indeed a night to be proud of and to remember.

However, there were more treats in store. The YPS productions of HAMLET and THE COMEDY OF ERRORS were successfully revived, with much praise from the older members of the audiences in addition to that from the youngsters present. Both productions confirmed the riches and strengths of our 2009-2011 ensemble and underlined what splendid results are obtained when  a company stays together for such a period of time.

Secondly, this hugely talented company allowed us to see them in an entirely different light when they gave us THE RSC ENSEMBLE REVEALED. And then as if to crown it all, we had two further sensational staging’s – THE TEMPEST (a welcome return of Little Angel Theatre in association with the RSC ) and the first RSC Studio production -THE RAPE OF LUCRECE. Now this makes a total of eight events in our theatres in just over five weeks!! Certainly, a fitting start to the momentous year of our 50th Birthday Celebrations.

However, all this was just the beginning. As I write this, the ensemble are back in London for a season of new work prior to their visit to New York and the first members of our new acting ensemble are settling down with us and the previews of Macbeth and Cardenio are well under way. These early performances are proving most enjoyable, exciting and a first  rate start to the new productions which are marking our 50th Birthday Season. We are being treated to yet more outstanding acting/technical talent as well as fantastic direction from Michael and Greg.

If any readers have not yet booked for these productions, then I advise a visit to our hard working Box Office colleagues as quickly as possible. And the arrival of additional acting ensemble members for The Merchant of Venice and The City Madam companies indicates further treats are in store!

To all who have been with the RSC before, welcome back! To all who are with us for the first time, welcome indeed! We hope you all enjoy this very special time in Stratford and do please be assured of our support and best wishes.

Tony Boyd-Williams

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When Paul Freeman as Claudius spoke these words in Matthew Warchus’ production of HAMLET during the opening performances in 1997, he was looking at an alternative Gertrude to the one originally cast.

 Although I understand Diana Quick gave a very fine performance during the early part of the run, it was in fact Susannah York who should have taken the role. The news this weekend of Susannah’s death reminded me of this temporary indisposition caused as a result of a fall from the stage during rehearsals and how she pluckily made every attempt to return to the production as soon as possible, using a stick for some performances when she did eventually play Hamlet’s hapless mother. It was a special performance from an actress long admired for her work in theatre and cinema.

In fact, Susannah was able to make jokes about her fall and the latter certainly did not prevent her from appearing (even with her leg in plaster ) at the Friends’ Birthday celebration event to provide some most enjoyable readings alongside Joanna McCallum. Earlier that season, they had given us a splendid Alice Ford and Meg Page as they sought playful revenge on Leslie Phillips’ delightfully roguish Falstaff in Ian Judge’s lively and enjoyable production of THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR.

Perhaps some lines towards the end of that play are appropriate as we recall Susannah York’s talents and warm personality (always so charming when you met her outside the RST),not forgetting her special and individual contributions to the 1996/7 season:

“..let us everyone go home,

And laugh this sport o’er by a country fire …”

Tony Boyd-Williams

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…as Geoff Streatfeild is appearing in “Above Suspicion: Deadly Intent”, the latest Linda La Plante vehicle, showing on ITV1 @ 9pm for 3 consecutive evenings starting on Monday 3rd January. The cast also includes Natalie Walter, another member of the Tennant “Hamlet” company.


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In an earlier blog, I indicated that I would write something about the production of Hamlet at the National Theatre. Here goes!

There are six RSC alumni involved including director Nicholas Hyntner and Fight Arranger Kate Waters (who has arranged the fights in our current ensemble’s King Lear ).On stage, you may see Rory Kinnear (Hamlet),Clare Higgins (Gertrude),David Calder (Polonius) and James Laurenson (Ghost and Player King).

There will be a live screening at the Picturehouse in Stratford-upon-Avon on Thursday  9th December. The performance commences at 6.45pm.

Such screenings are usually nationwide, so if you do not live in Stratford there should be a showing at a Picturehouse near you.

Definitely a case of “We’ll hear (and watch!) a play tonight  (or on Thursday!)”

 Tony Boyd -Williams

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Jo Stone-Fewings, the RSC’s most recent Orsino, is currently appearing in “The Invisible Man” at the Menier Chocolate Factory Theatre, London until 13th February 2011. As the blurb says “H.G. Wells’s classic tale is retold in a joyous, comedy music hall spectacular, packed with magical entertainment. This charming story combines tongue-in-cheek humour with jaw-dropping special effects and ingenious illusions.” Clearly the story has been greatly adapted!  http://www.menierchocolatefactory.com/
Sam Alexander, an alumni of the Tennant Hamlet, is at Manchester Royal Exchange in “The Bacchae” but it finishes on 4th December so hurry along if you haven’t already see it.  http://www.royalexchange.org.uk/page.aspx


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I am not one for rushing time away, but we cannot escape the fact that it is seven weeks to Christmas. Our splendid shop at The Courtyard (and I am sure we are ALL looking forward to the new shop in our new theatre) provides a wealth of  ideas for gifts and stocking fillers, especially when it comes to books.

At present, you may purchase three of the finest books available written about acting, and especially for the RSC. They are:

YEAR OF THE KING by Sir Antony Sher – a now classic account of  preparation and rehearsals for Richard III during the 1984 season, as well as some insights into other roles such as the Fool and Tartuffe.

EXIT PURSUED BY A BADGER by Nick Asbury – a marvellous account of what it was like to be part of the Histories Ensemble during 2006/8.

SOMETHING WRITTEN IN THE STATE OF DENMARK by Keith Osborn -an equally fascinating account of playing in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hamlet and Love’s Labour’s Lost during the 2008 season.

What you have in these outstanding  books is a wonderful insight into being part of the RSC at a particular time in the history of the Company plus some fascinating “warts and all” anecdotes.

I DO hope that one of our current ensemble might have the time to eventually put pen to paper, as it were, to write a similar account of the past two seasons, not forgetting the one to come when we could have a historic account of  what it was like to be in the first productions of Shakespeare in the new RST.

Ah well, perhaps that is a treat in store. Meanwhile, the books already mentioned provide a treat ,and moments of pure nostalgia ,each time you dip into them. Buy them as seasonal gifts for those who love theatre and if YOU haven’t got copies, spoil yourself at the same time !

Tony Boyd-Williams

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Walking down Shaftesbury Avenue the other day, I noticed that Jonathan Slinger is in YES, PRIME MINISTER by Emily Joyce (who played Viola in the 1995 revival of Ian Judge’s Stratford set production of  TWELFTH NIGHT).

 And there’s a coincidence!  Sir Peter Hall is directing a revival of the same play at the National in January to celebrate his eightieth birthday. Joining daughter Rebecca as Viola, are a galaxy of RSC alumni – Simon Callow as Sir Toby Belch. Amanda Drew (from the 2002 Jacobean season) as Olivia, David Ryall (The Mysteries and Hamlet from the 1996/7season) as Feste, James Clyde (who played Feste in Neil Bartlett’s Courtyard staging) as Antonio, Jeffry Wickham (also in the 1996/7 season, and of course Professor Kirk in THE LION,THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE).They are also joined by Judi Dench’s daughter, Finty, who will be playing Maria, designer Anthony Ward and (as Geraldine recently informed us) the Assistant Director is Richard Twyman ex THE HISTORIES.

 Speaking of which …If you cross Waterloo Bridge and head for the New London Theatre, the current ensemble in WAR HORSE includes  Anthony Shuster from THE HISTORIES, Zubin Varla (no introduction needed) and James Barriscale who was a member of the Stratford company in 1994.

Aha  I have just noticed that a number of RSC alumni are appearing in the National’s current HAMLET, but I think a further blog is called for.

To be continued …

Tony Boyd-Williams

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Having retired from Midsomer Murders, he’s now back on stage and will be appearing in John Simm’s Hamlet playing at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield from 16th September to 23rd October. Have a look on www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk/ but book soon as it’s a VERY popular production!


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A few weeks back, I was lucky enough to be invited to see the Young People’s Shakespeare production of Hamlet at Claremont School in Harrow during its two week tour of London state schools.

I sat amongst journalists, patrons, RSC staff and associates and watched a large group of girls and boys in Year Seven (first year seniors) soak up a dynamic and vibrant production.  They were then given the opportunity to ask questions and to work with the actors on understanding scene setting, how to convey mood with sounds and finally acting out Hamlet’s first scene with the ghost.

YPS Hamlet. Images by Hugo Glendinning

There was a surprisingly small amount of fidgeting and the children threw themselves whole-heartedly into the workshop, the hall was buzzing with enthusiasm and excitement.  Those children who were chosen (hands up straining to be seen “pick me, pick me!”) to act out the scene with the ghost acquitted themselves admirably receiving cheers, ‘high fives’ from the RSC ensemble actors and general applause from the audience.

It was wonderful to see so many children really getting to grips with one of my favourite Shakespeare plays and I thoroughly enjoyed Tarell McCraney’s 80-minute adaptation.  It was interesting to see how McCraney brought the play into context for these pre-teens who appeared to be genuinely engaged in the performance.  Ophelia sang a contemporary pop song in her madness; dress was modern with black umbrellas used in abundance as swords, shields and camouflage; Osiric was fabulously camp; Rosencrantz and Guildenstern were a modern Tweedledum and Tweedledee; and there was a definite feeling that the actors were ‘down’ with their audience.

The headmaster summed up what I am sure many of us felt when he said that the company had succeeded in genuinely demystifying Shakespeare by telling a good story well: “You can have the best product in the world but if you don’t have the best people delivering it, it’s pointless.”

I for one shall be booking to take my two daughters to the production when it shows at the RSC and then I shall introduce them to the full-length version with David Tennant.  Who could ask for a better introduction to Shakespeare’s tragedy?

By Jane Nead, RSC Friend, London

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Tarell Alvin McCraney is International Playwright in Residence for the RSC.  I asked him to tell us a bit about himself and his work for the RSC.

Tarell Alvin McCraney, Director, RSC Hamlet, 2010 by Ellie Kurttz

Q: Can you tell us a bit about your role?

A: The International Playwright in Residence gets to observe the world of Shakespeare being created by the RSC and hopefully gain understanding and knowledge of the tools William Shakespeare uses to tell his sometimes epic and at the same time detailed stories. By the end of the tenure the hope is to have a new play that has been inspired by those tools and story telling.

Q: Your adaptation of Hamlet for state schools in London is being described as a ‘high-energy version of Shakespeare’s play’.  Could you explain how you adaptation aims to ‘remove the obstacles’ preventing young people from seeing and enjoying Shakespeare?

A: I think the obstacles preventing most young people from enjoying Shakespeare is access and engagement. The RSC as a whole has already worked really hard to allow for the barrier of accessibility to be brought down. So I am just helping with this paired down Hamlet to engage students, hopefully.

Q: Can you tell us about other projects you are working on or planning for the RSC in 2010?

A: I am writing a play for the RSC about some very adult themes. 😉

Q: What was your first ever play about?

A: My first play ever was about Two boys – the Son of a drug Dealer, and the Son of a Baptist Minister, who fall in love.

Q: Tell us something unusual about yourself.

A: I LOVE PEANUT BUTTER. And I can’t stand Fish pie.

Q: What makes you laugh?

A: When my friends catch each other in awkward moments. The repetition of awkward is hilarious. That and when Dominic Cook gets shy. It’s funny.

Q: Describe your perfect day.

A: Beach, Words. Beach. Movies. Beach Dance. Dance. Sleep. Perfect.

Q: What do you regard as the highlight of your career so far?

A: I’m still living em… I’ll get back to you in about 30 years.

Q: Favourite RSC moments?

A: Richard II performance at the Gala last year.

Q: Favourite Shakespeare?

A: King John

Q: What is your favourite thing about working at the RSC?

A: Being made fun of for being the American. It’s the best.

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