It’s often forgotten amongst schoolchildren that Shakespeare is supposed to be seen live and not simply read. As a part of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Stand Up For Shakepeare campaign schools across London, including Kingsbury, Southall, Harrow, Wembley, and Hounslow, were treated to a performance of Hamlet and a drama workshop. In Claremont School, Kingsbury, this Hamlet virgin joined students aged eight to twelve years old, who were largely black and Asian, that were also watching Hamlet (or even theatre) for the first time.
The play is edited by Bijan Sheibani and directed by Tarell Alvin McCraney, winner of the Evening Standard’s Most Promising Playwright award. McCraney says: “Shakespeare is for all people. Hamlet is a great play to tour schools as it deals directly with young people and their families.” Here classic drama meets popular culture: Hamlet is cut to seventy minutes, has shortened soliloquies, snippets of Sam Sparro’s Black and Gold, and audience participation. This maybe the PG-rated Hamlet, but it is just as exciting. And Dharmesh Patel, with his boyish good looks and endless energy, creates a multifaceted Hamlet.
The main attraction, however, comes from the audience: the children. They reacted to the play more than the adults and remind us of Shakespeare’s accessibility, be it with their fascination at Hamlet’s “to be or not to be” speech or fear at the Ghost’s eerie presence. All of them offered their undivided attention and had nothing negative to say about the performance, which in turn challenges the argument that Shakespeare is for the elite or educated. Well now, if only we were all lucky enough to watch the RSC at school.
Joins the repertoire in The Courtyard Theatre from 1 May 2010.
To see or not to see: * * * *