Staff play, ‘Hamalot’: dragons, pirates and a dance off
Staff triumphant in the ‘This is not a panto! Panto!’’
The biannual staff production, awoken from hibernation by John Wiggins and the writing of new drama teacher David Aldred to occupy its now traditional January slot, proved another rip-roaring, barn-storming tour de force.
With the wonderful support of our endlessly brilliant drama department, Mr Aldred gave us the perfect counterpoint to the pupils’ excellent autumn production of Hamlet: Hamalot was born. An imaginatively creative blend, Hamalot drew on elements of Monty Python’s Spamalot, and a Game of Thrones, including an homage to OSE Emilia Clarke’s Denearys.
The ‘Mother of Dragons’ was lovingly portrayed by Judy Young as Denearys Fortinbras, ‘Queen of the Scanties’ entering the fray of the final scene in the accompaniment of two dragons (of an inflatable variety), expertly ridden by the Warden and Sub-Warden – earlier seen portraying Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, struggling to pass Common Entrance at a certain local prep school.
With exceptional performances all round, from the raucous to the pithily droll, it would be impossible to give fair dues and sufficient regard to all here. There were memorable scenes throughout, with pirates, dancing skeletons, gravediggers, and a decisive Dance-Off showdown between Hamalot and Laertes.
The play went out with a bang for another year (quite literally, thanks to the explosive prowess of Tech Manager, Hannah Fullelove); concluding in style a production that aptly demonstrated the many talents, enthusiasm and hard-work of the St Edward’s staff room.
Read John Wiggins’ full review below.
The biannual staff production that recent generations of St Edward’s pupils have come to anticipate eagerly was saved from hibernation by the stealth of AJW and the naivety of brand new drama teacher David Aldred. Before he knew it, Mr Aldred was signed up to write and direct a play – ‘I won’t do a panto’ – for his colleagues to perform in this now traditional January slot, as ever, done and dusted within three weeks.
With huge support and encouragement from his colleagues in the drama department, Hamalot was born: a counterpoint to the excellent autumn production of the bard’s Hamlet performed with great skill by the students and so deftly directed by Kat Eden.
Early creative discussions saw the potential for the tale of Hamlet to snuggle up to Monty Python’s Spamalot before jumping into bed with the Game of Thrones and an homage to OSE, Emelia Clarke whose depiction of Daenerys Targaryen, Mother of Dragons was so lovingly portrayed by Judy Young, ‘Queen of the Scanties’. Her entrance in Hamalot as Daenerys Fortinbras in the final scene brought the house down, not least as she was accompanied by inflatable dragons, ridden by the Warden and Sub-Warden – a brilliant punch-line to their earlier portrayal as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, still besties of Hamalot in a continued struggle to get past CE at a certain ‘local prep school’.
So, was there to be a happy ending and a marriage between the beautiful and demure Ophelia (Laura Allen) and the all-singing, all-dancing Hamalot (Jonathan Muir)? ‘No! This is not a panto!’
The tragedy became even more tragic as, first R&G and then Ophelia and her long-suffering father, Polonius (the droll, Edmund Hunt) were blown up as the various attempts by the darkly evil King Claudius (Beth Steer) to kill off Hamalot, back-fired. Never has there been such an over-worked Gravedigger (Nick Coram-Wright); or was it mostly the sweat and toil of Gravedigger 2 (Simon Palferman) who, between them provided some wonderful ‘banter’.
Mr Aldred’s attention to detail – not least thanks to a classic education at Teddies 1981-86 – provided the realisation of Hamlet’s metaphoric ‘cloud in the shape of a camel’ with Hamalot’s camel (played by Sue Webb and ‘method actor’ Andrew Davis) dancing to its own theme tune ‘Camelot’. Still #notapanto?
The aforementioned drama colleagues were tremendous in self-parody as they enacted the ‘play within a play’ – ‘how clever’, sneers Claudius – bolstered by the over-endowed, Nick Coram-Wright as the player queen. Ms Eden and fellow thespian, Lauren Mackrell were deliciously OTT making the task of Louise Bowen all the more challenging as she had to step in with eight hours’ notice to Ms Mackrell’s role. We needn’t have worried: Dr Bowen made the role her own and the production was saved.
All of this was played around the imperious Iron Throne (fashioned by The North Wall’s Rebecca Welburn and Clive Stevenson) that Hamalot craved and was sworn to take back – urged on by his ghostly father played by none other than David ‘I’ve got a white sheet’ Finamore.
Early on in the play, we were treated to HMs with squires (with coconut shells for horses) riding on to the stage each to share their motto and declare loyalty to the new King and his throne. Said King, Hamalot’s uncle/dad, Ms Steer was a tour de force, malevolent and scheming but with a beautiful voice and clearly devoted to his wife/sister-in-law, ‘Dame’ Richard Powell, as revealed by the tenderness with which they sang the modern duet Beneath Your (sic) Beautiful.
We were also treated to a visit, a song and a dance from the Pirates who get no more than a foot-note in Shakespeare’s version of the tale. A team of international guards brought us closer again to Europe with subtle and some less than subtle touches – or is it touchés? Choreography by Lisa Elkins and Lynn Hall was ever-present but no more so than in the dancing skeletons and in the big showdown between Hamalot and Laertes – the Dance-off! Sam Lapage as Laertes and Jonathan Muir’s Hamalot brought some great moves to the stage, not least putting ‘a ring on it’ and finishing Gangnam Style.
All of this was interwoven by rhubarb-clad narration, and minstrelness from the self-styled producer/enforcer, John Wiggins, mostly accompanied by siren-voiced, Lorraine Turley, much to the original composition of and patient accompaniment by the perennial Musical Director, Gabs Damiani and his band (Elizabeth Preece, Will Bolam Bassett and Wilf Cartwright).
A final explosion (courtesy of Technical Manager, Hannah Fullelove) did for King, Queen, Laertes and Hamalot, survived only by the long-suffering, Horatio (the cool yet philosophical, David Roche) giving a total body count of eight for the play. Thankfully this was the only corpsing on stage from a well-rehearsed and directed, hard-working, enthusiastic and multi-talented common room. But signing off with a big thank-you to those off stage including costumes by Lucy Baddeley and Stage Management (herding cats?) by Margaret Lloyd and Yvette Ramadharsingh with essential technical back-up from sixth former, Will Webb and team.