Adam Hipkin, a member of the Young Vic Youth Council and Director of Teafilms Ltd., met with some Hamlet actors and creative team members recently to interview them to produce some content for DVDs that we especially make for schools. Here are some of his thoughts…
Hamlet is arguably one of the most recognised of Shakespeare’s plays. It sits amongst Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Othello and King Lear, as the most popular plays of his canon (the latter of which was performed at the Young Vic in 2009 by the now late Pete Postlethwaite.).
The Director Ian Rickson, who is taking on his first Shakespeare production, is in charge of an exciting cast headed up by Michael Sheen. We went into their rehearsal rooms just up the road from The Young Vic, with a couple of cameras to chat to some of the cast and crew.
The first person we spoke to was Maxine Doyle. Maxine is the Associate Director of Punchdrunk and is the Choreographer on this production. “Hamlet is a super complex play. My process with the work to date has been essentially kind of delving into the psychological investigation of the text”. Maxine also mentioned to us a part of the play that is being kept top secret by the production team, but I think it’s fair to say that it draws on her work with Punchdrunk.
Next we spoke to Claire Louise Baldwin and Elle While, (Assistant Stage Manager and Assistant Director) about what a modern audience will get from this production. Claire was adamant that “with regards to the actual show and the way it is set, I don’t think it has been done this way before.” Elle on the other hand focused more on the main character: “It’s [about] someone who has lost someone very important in their life. We could all probably think of someone in our own lives going through that right now.”
After a short break while we waited for the actors to come back from lunch we spoke to James Clyde who is playing Hamlet’s uncle, Claudius. We asked him why he thought Hamlet was such a popular play, one which is always being produced somewhere in the world. “It just has this extraordinary verse. If you look at some of Hamlet’s soliloquies every other line has become part of every day speech. It’s the title of a movie or the title of an album. It’s probably the most borrowed from piece of literature in the English language.”
We then caught up with actor Eileen Walsh who is playing the part of Rosencrantz. This character and his friend Guildenstern are both close friends of Hamlet’s, the other key fact being that these roles have always been played by men. Although the casting of Adeel Akhtar (Four Lions) as Guildenstern sticks to this set up, the casting of Eileen as Rosencrantz sees the first women to play the part. “It feels like a piece of new writing. A women hasn’t played it before so it’s just a new take on the whole thing and certain lines that a man says, once they are said by a women, just have a completely different angle.”
The last actor we managed to have a chat with before the afternoon rehearsals started was Pip Donaghy who is playing three different characters: Barnardo, The Player King and the Gravedigger, the latter of which sparks one of the most famous scenes in the play with Hamlet holding the skull of his old Court Jester, Yorick. “In our production they [Barnardo, Player King and Gavedigger] are going to have the same soul, they are going to be kind of the same character manifesting themselves in different guises.”
As we finished chatting to Pip the rehearsals picked up again and so we had to make room and pack down the kit.