In the depths of winter when people are overcoming those 'post-panto blues', a notice was posted on the Dramatic Society notice board - 'HAMLET-AUDITION'. These were held, the majority of the cast decided upon and the scripts dished out for the lines to be leant for the New Year.It's a wonderful piece and certainly fills in many of the gaps in my memory. I love the detail of some of the production attending Branagh's 1992 RSC production, the precursor to the film and the indignation at having to wear tights.
Back in school after the holiday few lines had been learnt, but Mr. Gleave, our dedicated director, started rehearsals nevertheless. These always followed the same format: Tracy Owens, the valiant production assistant would sit herself at the front of the hall, place her script on her lap and smile intelligently up at the stage. Meanwhile, at the back of the hall, Mr. Gleave would perform his own full-blooded interpretation of Shakespeare's hallowed script for us, the aspiring actors, to attempt to reproduce up on stage.
After a couple of weeks we were making very slow progress. Movements were still being mapped out on stage, Mr. Gleave could not find the 'right' Laertes and still lines had not been mastered. Not exactly the best start to any top-class production.
Spring half-term come and went , and we were still struggling through the final scenes of the play. Rosencrantz, the lovely Alankar Sharma, was continually late for rehearsals and Polonius, Ricky Morton, still knew few of his lines. But, despite these problems some parts of the production were improving. The set was beginning to take shape under the steady guidance of Mr. Preston and Steven Simpson; and the cast itself, was also starting to get its act together; most notably Hamlet (the inspiring Merfyn Cave), who had mastered his soliloquies and was becoming increasingly impressive in the lead role.
The final week of rehearsals arrived and the tension was mounting; would we be ready in time? The lighting had been installed, the set was on the verse of completion and the sound had finally got its cocks to crow; all that was needed was the actors. Well, after our mighty rehearsals under the surprisingly calm influence of Mr. Gleave, we were at last starting to look like a true Blue Coat production.
The Friday before the week of the play a small band of the cast and crew kindly accompanied by Mr and Mrs Halton, took a rest from their hectic schedule to take a trip down to Stratford to see how good Kenneth Branagh & Co. really were. After four and a half hours in the theatre the general consensus was that they were excellent - but not a patch on us (though we would not mind the money) and we returned to Liverpool with some fresh enthusiasm).
On arriving at school on the Sunday for the dress rehearsal, the male contingent in the cast was distraught to discover that their costumes entailed the wearing of tights (some of which were the most putrid shade of orange, green and blue). This being a new experience for most of us, we required instruction in the art of putting them on from those skilled seamstresses, Mrs. Harcombe and Mrs. Holiday, not to mention the actresses of the play. When the laughs over our attire had died down (some of the girl's headgear was also amusing), we began. The Sunday afternoon dragged on, because Mr. Gleave's tireless striving after perfection, with the majority of the problem rearing their ugly heads in the final scene. But, we managed to leave just before darkness with most people quietly confident of a successful production.
The next day, the problem scenes were attended to, so that their standard was on par with the rest of the first-rate production, and so we were ready(?) for the opening night and the show to begin. After some final encouraging words from Mr. Gleave, we were up on the stage in front of the light and an audience acting our hearts out. Unfortunately that first night had too many faults, including a personal one of waiting on top of the battlements of a Danish castle in the freezing cold for what seemed like hours, for a ghost to appear. But the true professional approach of everyone involved meant that these weaknesses quickly disappeared and by Friday night we had reached perfection!
It just remains for me, the honourable Horatio to thank Mr. Preston for his never-ending efforts; the stage, lighting and sound crews; communications; props; make-up; our seamstresses' special effects; and the large group of dedicated teachers, without whom it would never have been. And finally, the inimitable Mr. Gleave, whose dedication and perseverance turned a group of sixth formers into a company of Thespians with a production to remember.
A. ROBERTSON, 10P
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
I found some copies of my old school magazine, The Squirrel the other day and what should I find on page 36 on the 1993 issue but this article about number nine on my list: