With theatres across the land closed because of Covid-19, QE boys revelled in a rare chance to see live drama as part of this year’s Shakespeare Schools Festival.
Year 9 Drama Club members performed an abridged version of Hamlet – and thanks to QE’s year group bubble system, their entire year were able to watch the performance in the Main School Hall.
Afterwards, Assistant Head (Pupil Involvement), Crispin Bonham-Carter, praised the cast for putting on such an engaging production: “They told the story clearly, and it was genuinely moving. Something we will all treasure.”
The boys have spent weeks preparing for the Shakespeare School Festival (SSF). Their work included a special workshop before half-term led by Brian Mullin, an Artistic Associate with the Coram Shakespeare Schools Foundation (the organisation which runs the festival) and Gavin Molloy, of RM Drama (the company which provides drama direction for the School).
In normal years, QE boys join other schools to give their abridged performances at a special SSF evening at the Arts Depot in Finchley.
This year, it had originally been planned to live-stream performances, but in the end it was decided simply to have the boys perform live at the School, with Mr Bonham-Carter filming them.
Before the performance, Mr Bonham-Carter circulated a PowerPoint presentation to help tutors explore with their groups the famous revenge tragedy set in Denmark, which in its full form is Shakespeare’s longest play. He outlined the complex plot, which revolves around Prince Hamlet and his fluctuating desire for revenge against his uncle, Claudius, who has murdered Hamlet’s father in order to seize his throne and marry Hamlet’s mother.
Mr Bonham-Carter urged the boys to consider questions exploring the key themes of the play, including grief, madness and vengeance, and the complex, multi-faceted characters.
Hamlet is one of Shakespeare’s most quoted plays, with famous quotations including:
- Neither a borrower nor a lender be
- Something is rotten in the state of Denmark
- There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in our philosophy
- Brevity is the soul of wit
- Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t
- To be or not to be, that is the question
- The lady protests too much, methinks
- Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio: a fellow of infinite jest
- Goodnight, sweet prince,
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!
On the day of the performance, which replaced a Year 9 English lesson, Mr Bonham-Carter introduced the occasion, saying that Hamlet is a “play for us all”.
He pointed out that, with theatres nationwide currently lying empty, the audience was very lucky to be able to see actors take to the stage live.
Mr Molloy, who directed Hamlet, said the play had received a great reception from the boys. The audience clearly enjoyed the bloody final fight scene, in 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.
The actors were given a hearty round of applause by their classmates at the end.
“I am so proud of the boys, taking on this epic story and really making it their own,” said Mr Molloy.