by William Shakespeare.
Royal Shakespeare Company Schools tour to 29 January 2010.
Runs: 1hr 10min No interval.
Review: by Carole Woddis 22 January at Claremont High School Kenton..
Shakespeare with actions and resonance.
This showing in a Harrow school is part of the RSC’s crusade to maintain the importance of Shakespeare in our public psyche generally and on the school curriculum particularly.
Ever since Shakespeare was downgraded, it’s as though Michael Boyd has upped the ante. A new Teachers Toolkit was launched only this week as part of the Boyd and the RSC’s Stand up for Shakespeare philosophy, which “calls on all school children to experience Shakespeare live, start Shakespeare earlier and learn about Shakespeare through active teaching methods which get them on their feet”’
The launch trumpets the company’s achievement in this field over the past four years. If this visit is anything to go by, it seems thoroughly justifiable.
The production is edited to 70 minutes by American born writer Tarell Alvin McCraney (who also directs) and British-Iranian director Bijan Sheibani, who worked together on the award-winning The Brothers Size.
McCraney brings a constantly fresh approach which produces 70 minutes rich in brooding atmosphere. Patrick Romer’s Ghost of Hamlet’s father, for example, exemplifies the essence of deathly presence with a simple, deep, out-breath. As you’d expect, all of the ensemble work is exemplary.
What emerges is absolutely a play about death. It also, in one aspect, proves revelatory.
Whilst the authors have largely reduced or jettisoned the play’s political resonances and Hamlet’s philosophical and emotional paralysis, what remains is a story about step-parents, parental loss and children’s reaction to it, issues of immediate resonance to any young person, even if they haven’t lost a parent.
You realise fascinatingly that as a young man, Hamlet’s grief turns outwards to revenge. And Dharmesh Patel’s is indeed a very angry young man. As Ophelia, Debbie Korley’s female grief turns inwards. She goes mad.
As fine an example as it is of RSC work, what followed was even better. In the subsequent 30 minute workshop, we watched how the 8-11 year olds were soon up on their feet following David Rubin in rhythmic clapping and getting down to the nitty gritty of speaking and acting. Something very special is indeed going on here.
Hamlet: Dharmesh Patel.
Claudius: David Rubin.
Gertrude/Player: Kirsty Woodward.
Ghost/Player/Pirate: Patrick Romer.
Polonius/Priest/1st Sailor/Pirate: Peter Peverley.
Laertes/Rosenceantz/Marcellus: Dyfan Dwyfor.
Ophelia/Pirate: Debbie Korley.
Horatio: Simone Saunders.
Guildenstern/Barnardo/Osric: Gruffudd Glyn.
Director: Tarell Alvin McCraney.
Designer: Tom Piper.
Fights: Terry King.
Music Advisor: John Woolf.
Text/Voice work: Rebecca Cathbertson.
Movement: Struan Leslie.
Music captain: Peter Peverley
Associate director: Michael Fentiman.
Associate designer: Jean Chan.
Hamlet London school tour runs 18-29 January. The production then joins the RSC repertoire in Stratford on 1 May and will be part of Stand Up for Shakespeare Week 8-11 September, along with the RSC’s 2009 schools-tour Comedy of Errors.