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by William Shakespeare

A Workshop Performance
The Questors Studio
January 2009

Directed by Mark Fitzgerald

A Workshop performance of Shakespeare's play
(QNews 15, December 2008)

Joint Artistic Director Mark Fitzgerald and a group of actors will attempt to perform the first three acts of Hamlet. Here is the catch: they will work under the same conditions as Shakespeare's actors.

Each actor has received a cue script of their part: that is, their lines and a three-word cue line leading up to their lines. In addition they have been given the Platt (or plot) of the play telling them when they enter. They will then learn their part in isolation and only meet the rest of the cast on the day of the performance. The first time they will act with each other will be in the first performance.

They are not allowed to read the whole play and - believe it or not, some of the actors are unfamiliar with the play.

We then aim to see how a modern actor will deal with the uncertainty and absence of rehearsal. Come along and support these brave souls, risking reputation and sanity.

Anything can happen. The cast includes Questors actors:

Robin Ingram, Paul Whiting, Rachel Power, Will O'Connell, Alex McDevitt, Steve Tillett, Hannah Whiteoak, Anthony Curran, Mark Fitzgerald, Simon Thomas, Derek Stoddart, Geoffrey Morgan, Rahul Kohli and Rob Clother.

Hamlet Unseen - Some Observations
(QNews 18, March 2009)

I was privileged to be part of the team that put on the first three acts of Hamlet as close to our understanding of the conditions that pertained to Shakespeare's own actors. That is, each actor being given their lines with a three word cue before each speech, a Platt (or plot) of each scene so that an actor would know what side of the stage to enter, who else would be on stage at the same time and a (very) brief outline of what was to go on. That meant that each actor would not know to whom they were speaking, who was to give them their cue and what was to happen between each of their speeches - it might have been a couple of lines or a page and a half of other people's dialogue.

It was terrifying, exciting and immensely satisfying. However some useful tips emerged that may be useful for modern performances.

Because the actors did not know where their next cue was coming from, we concentrated very hard on the person speaking. An audience member told me that this concentrated the audience's attention on the words and action of the play and is, of course, what every actor SHOULD do in every play (usually!). When you are not doing anything yourself - pay attention to the actor who is speaking!

Knowing our lines (mostly) before we turned up for the first performance meant that that performance was electric for us and for the audience, (and earned us the only standing ovation that I have ever been involved in and brought a tear to my eye). The second performance was therefore effectively done with only one rehearsal and though I say it myself, was a very creditable performance by any standards.

Noel Coward, apparently, came to his first rehearsal knowing his lines. At The Questors the norm is to be off book after the third rehearsal and observed more often in the breach than in the observance, because it requires courage to put the book down and we tend to keep the script, like a security blanket, far too long. I think it would be beneficial if, at The Questors, actorsattempted to be off book at the first rehearsal, relying on the rehearsal prompt (a routine fixture on Shakespeare's stage). Each actor would come with a deeper understanding of his character and the play would develop, under the guidance of the director, more effectively and quicker, through the interchange of the characters and without the b****y script in their hands.

Geoffrey Morgan