We spoke to some key players in this year’s production entitled Hamlet 2013 – director Linda-Louise Swain and actors Andrew White in the title role, Cameron Robertson as Claudius and Jessica Rijs as Ophelia.
Linda-Louise, how did you start with Shakespeare and what keeps you coming back as a performer and director?
Swain: I really do love Shakespeare. I had a fantastic teacher at Collegiate who had a way of just bringing the text to life. But the point of no return came in my 20s with some superb mentorship from Bruce and Helen Mann, founders of the PE Shakespearean Festival.
Is Shakespeare relevant today? What still draws audiences to the Bard’s works in the 21st century?
Robertson: There’s a timeless appeal to Shakespeare. The themes are universal and will be relevant as long as people are around. The language is beautiful, even to the untrained ear.
White: "Not for one time, but for all time,” I think they say. There’s also a strong moral element that people can identify with. It’s edifying.
So the world would be a better place if we all dabbled in a bit of Shakespeare?
White: I’m a better person for it. (Laughs)
Rijs: The classroom isn’t a bad place for him to be either. Students make up a large part of our audience.
Hamlet 2013 is a modern take on a classic?
Swain: We wanted to do the straightforward, Elizabethan thing at first. But the cast is so young and dynamic, the whole thing took on a character of its own and evolved from there. All we had to do was keep an open mind.
White: We’ve also tried to recover those delicate moments that can be lost in bigger stage productions. The Little Theatre is an intimate space, we’ll take advantage of that.
Rijs: We’ve had to unlearn certain ground rules. We go right into the audience sometimes.
PE has a proud theatre tradition. How do you expect Shakespearean purists to respond to the more progressive elements of the play?
Swain: I think they’ll appreciate sitting for just two hours instead of the usual four. (Laughs) It’s a proud theatre tradition, but it’s not stale. We’re pushing the envelope this year and enjoying every minute of it.
Linda-Louise, the last time you directed Hamlet was a special occasion?
Swain: I co-directed with Sharon Rother at Fort Frederick in 2000. The first production of Hamlet in South Africa was at the fort 200 years earlier. It was an absolutely amazing experience. The atmosphere was electric, almost eerie, like the players from 1800 never left.
Any nail biting moments?
Swain: The wind could be freakishly strong. Bob Law, who was playing Polonius, got to the fort one night and caught a stray chair to the forehead.
No such problems at the Little Theatre?
Swain: It’s indoors, luckily. We’ve had to move from the Mannville Open Air two years in a row now. Poor weather? Swain: Poor planning from the municipality. They’ve withdrawn power from the park – very disappointing. Nothing can replace the open air feel, but we’re trying our best to recreate it. The public are encouraged to come and picnic in the theatre’s courtyard from 6pm. The troupe will do their warm-ups in front of everyone.
Hamlet 2013 will take place at 7.30pm every evening from next Wednesday to January 26. Tickets are R30 for pupils and students, R50 for the general public. For block and discounted school bookings, call Helen on (041) 581-1738.