Tuesday, 3 July 2012

The Prince of Denmark

Rosina Sabur, Young Journalist at Day 5 of Connections at the NT

Being ushered into a darkened theatre whilst young actors performed their dress rehearsal, I think I could be forgiven for mistaking these young people for seasoned professionals. The professional way they carried out their rehearsal was impressive, as was their presence on stage.

Watching their interactions with the crew and directors, it would be difficult to distinguish those who worked at the National Theatre full-time from the visitors - the height difference was the only clue! Sitting in on the dress rehearsal was a fascinating experience. As a regular visitor to the National Theatre I have often been left in awe of the seamless productions, so being let ‘behind the scenes’ so to speak, was a real treat. The rehearsals revealed the precision necessary for quality productions - be it the timing of the music, the position of the lighting or the movement of the actors.

The minimalistic staging focused all our attention on the actors’ performances, which were superb. They really got to grips with the anxieties of their teen characters, and astutely interpreted the parental expectations.

Prince of Denmark by Calderdale Theatre School, Photo: Simon Annand

Of course, having a great play to work with helps. Michael Lesslie’s Prince of Denmark, a prequel of sorts to one of Shakespeare’s most renowned tragedies, Hamlet, was excellent. Lesslie’s use of iambic prose created a flow of language which had echoes of the great bard’s own flair and wit. If Shakespeare were writing today, I can well imagine him writing in a similar way, albeit with a slightly more modern vocabulary!

Speaking at the Writers’ Platform, Lesslie explained that Prince of Denmark “came about in a slightly unusual way”. His brief was to create a short play specifically for young people that would act as a companion to the National’s production of Hamlet.  He discussed his desire to avoid patronising the young people he was writing for and the difficulty of creating a sense of development in a play of under an hour.

Prince of Denmark by Calderdale Theatre School, Photo: Simon Annand
Despite the difficulties, Lesslie created a superb play, which Calderdale Theatre School made their own, complete with Yorkshire accents. A production worthy of the National! I’ve already marked a spot in the diary for next year’s Connections…

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