Posts Tagged ‘Schools’

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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