Drama at QE: back with a vengeance

Drama at QE: back with a vengeance

Pandemic or no pandemic, the show goes on at QE, with a special Shakespeare Schools Festival (SSF) workshop held to help Year 9 boys prepare for next month’s performance of Hamlet.

Rehearsals for the play, which opens with the ghost of the King of Denmark instructing his son, Hamlet, to avenge his murder, are now in full swing at the School. During the workshop, boys rehearsed the fight in the bloody final scene during which the young Danish Lord, Laertes, kills Hamlet in revenge for the deaths of his father and sister, only then to die himself, having been wounded with the same poisoned sword.

To maintain the safety of QE’s year-group bubbles, all the actors for this year’s SSF production come from Year 9, while the festival itself will also be different, with every participating school’s performance live-streamed instead of being performed in front of a theatre audience.

Crispin Bonham-Carter, QE’s Assistant Head (Pupil Involvement), who is himself a former professional actor, praised the work being done in Year 9 to stage “Shakespeare’s greatest tragedy”, while adding that weekly drama sessions are taking place in Year 7 “developing the key skills of collaboration, timing, story-telling and – most importantly – having a great deal of fun!

“It’ll take more than a national pandemic to stop QE boys’ enthusiasm for drama,” he said.

Leading the workshop were Gavin Molloy, of RM Drama (the company which provides drama direction for the School), and Brian Mullin, an Artistic Associate with the Coram Shakespeare Schools Foundation (the organisation which runs the festival).

Mr Molloy said: “I am lucky to have such a keen cast from Year 9, with a mature and ‘can-do’ way of working. They perform well together, working as an ensemble. I am very excited with what is to come.

“It’s a little different this year, as obviously we are working with some limitations: our version of Hamlet will not be performed in front of a live audience, but rather on a live video feed to the Shakespeare Schools Festival on the evening of November 20th.”

But, he said, progress to date has been strong, with all boys involved already having gained an understanding of the plot of Hamlet. Asked what the themes of the play were, the Year 9 boys instantly responded: “Revenge!”, “Murder!”, “Madness!” “Power!”

“I added to the list by saying it’s also a play about grief. A son who loses his father, and how devastating that is for him. I also tell them it’s what The Lion King is based on!” said Mr Molloy.

“We have a totally blank canvas and are working collaboratively with thoughts, ideas and production decisions. We share ideas, talk about productions we may have seen and also discuss how we will need to make a lot of character choices as we have only 30 minutes to re-tell probably the most famous story in literature, as we are working with a heavily cut-down script for the festival.

“The boys have also been having some fun learning of the double meanings of some of Shakespeare’s dialogue. I am very excited with what is to come. The play’s the thing!”

The final photo (right) shows a recent bonding exercise in the Year 7 Drama Club.