The North Wall underwent a dramatic transformation for this term’s school play, Katrina Eden’s slick and spirited re-working of Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
It was only the third time in 150 years that pupils from St Edward’s had taken on Shakespeare’s longest play, and the cast proved that they were more than capable of rising to the challenge. From the moment the lights went up on Rosie Motion’s set (an austere palette of grey stone and mirrored surfaces) the audience were transported to Elsinore castle.
Overwhelmed with grief following the death of his father, and the perceived betrayal by his mother, Queen Gertrude (a graceful and dignified Elsa Robinson), Hamlet embarks on a quest for revenge, with tragic consequences. Max Brennan’s portrayal of the eponymous Danish prince was imbued with youthful angst and gallows humour as he plots to orchestrate a “mousetrap” to reveal the truth – much to the consternation of the befuddled Polonius (Harry Whattoff, lending a dash of levity to the role) and his murderous uncle, Claudius (a stoic Laurenz Claas).
The second half was altogether darker than the first, focusing on Hamlet’s murder of Polonius, and Ophelia’s subsequent descent into madness. Lara Paul’s powerful performance as Shakespeare’s tragic heroine emphasised the character’s vulnerability, her love for Hamlet turning into confusion when he spurns her affections. Her death by drowning was a heart-breaking moment: the usually offstage scene played out on the balcony whilst Gertrude revealed the news to the court.
As audience members in the front few rows can attest, the final duel between Hamlet and Laertes (Jack Verschoyle) allowed the actors to exhibit some astonishingly accomplished swordsmanship. The final scene, where Matt Wilkins’ grief-stricken Horatio cradles the deceased Hamlet at the front of the stage, was a genuinely moving and poignant end to the proceedings.
Throughout the play, the talents of the North Wall’s technical team were on full display, from the visual wizardry that brought the ghost of Hamlet’s father to life (with voice cameo from the Drama Department’s own Mr Aldred) to the haunting music underscoring the entire production, composed by Jonathan Keeley. Special mention must also be made of the supporting cast, with brilliant performances from the likes of Chrissie Kirkham as the Grave Digger, Sassy Hammersley as Fortinbras, and Honor Allen and Fergus Flory as Rosencrantz and Guildernstern.
It was a spectacular staging, and all involved should feel a great sense of achievement for their efforts. On this occasion, the play was very much the thing!
Visit the Galleries page to see a full set of production photos.
By Amy Walters, Theatre and Marketing Manager, The North Wall