This year’s school production was always going to be a mammoth task, tackling arguably Shakespeare’s most famous play in a way that brought it to a young audience in a unique and fast paced style ensuring no sleeping by the time everybody dies! However, this cast and crew were up for the challenge and the results were magical enough to make even complete cast death by the end palpable.
The kingdom of Denmark was transported into a 1920’s setting. The composite set focused on the living room of King Claudius, decked with cubist portraits of the newly crowned royals. Numerous platforms housed the various settings of the play including Ophelia’s bedroom and a large cube which served as a portal to the afterlife where Hamlet encounters his father.
The staging was topped off brilliantly with a jazz band who continually sound tracked the developing plot creating brilliant mood and atmosphere throughout the play. Leads and soloists joined the band to sing modern tracks remastered by Ms James into 1920s fashion with numbers such as Dua Lipa’s “New Rules” and Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters”. Special mention must go to Aran Woodger’s haunting rendition of “Madworld” which accompanied Ophelia’s incarceration in an asylum and provoked a tear or two from onlookers.
The principles within the cast truly led from the front. Pupils from Years 8 through to 13 took on significant roles and all did them justice. From the playful silliness of Clare Coates and Tara Rafarty’s Ros and Guil to the comical genius of Joe Biddle and Josh Darlow as the grave digger and his companion, they all made their moments unique. The Peaky Blinders boys formed of Billy Dobson and Isaac Searle punctuated the action with their gruff charm and Hugh Boyd’s Ghost was a formidable force on stage.
Harry Scrafton played Laertes with maturity and poise which complimented the delicate fragility of Katie Squires, whose portrayal of Ophelia’s madness was evocatively engaging. Fin Bos’ firm and friendly Horatio brilliantly balanced out Hamlet’s changeable nature which was energetically and exceptionally portrayed by Harry Lowe who threw all of his energy and intellect into his portrayal. Florence Cain and Ben Hall formed a formidable power couple as Gertrude and Claudius and their tempestuous relationship made them electric to watch, villains an audience loved to hate.
The ensemble in this production were fundamental to its success. They were always willing to give up their time (and nearly risk their lives at some points!) to create beautiful moments on stage. Scenes such as the filming of Hamlet’s play and madness sequences, full of complex lifts and meticulous choreography took hours to perfect and utilised everyone’s strength and agility. This hard work payed off and I have been inundated with praise for everyone’s professionalism whenever they stepped on stage.
Often the work of those behind the scenes is overlooked but this production wouldn’t have been possible without a technical crew making the magic happen. Teddy Burt ran backstage brilliantly with a calm and cool demeanour that everyone could rely on, especially if it was fake blood they were looking for! Harry Benton is a lighting genius and gave up so much of his time to make the stage come alive, utilising colour to compliment scenes and draw attention to the central themes of the play.
More impressive than any of the above however was the time and commitment that AGS pupils put into the production as a whole. They sold their souls to The Bard and it paid off, I feel very proud to have been able to work with such a fantastic group of people and to have been a part of a very slick and sophisticated piece of theatre.