Next Generation Hamlet - superb!
Young actors in Next Generation Hamlet. Photo by Gina Print. © RSC.
Next Generation Hamlet, 28-29 July 2023, The Other Place, Stratford-upon-Avon.
Next Generation Hamlet – a production staged by a group of young people aged between 13 and 18 who are members of the RSC’s Next Generation Act Company – and what a magnificent performance they produced!
Dramatic! Professional! The acting superb, full of passion and enthusiasm. The delivery of those famous lines written by William Shakespeare that we know – at least the opening words to, sent shivers down the spine to hear them being spoken by the characters that Shakespeare created 400 years ago, and brought to life by these young actors.
To witness the plot unfolding through these twenty teenagers who had worked together to pair this production down to around an hour and three-quarters yet managing to include all the major scenes from Shakespeare’s original version, was a fantastic achievement – and retaining his dialogue as it had been written long ago clearly showed great respect for the genius of the Bard.
Next Generation rehearsals. Photo by Gina Print. © RSC.
It was brilliantly directed by Paul Ainsworth with a great team behind the scenes. As for the actors, every single person in the cast put their hearts and souls into bringing their character to life. It’s hard to single anyone out although Hamlet played by Abdul who will now be leaving the Company having reached the grand old age of 18, deserves a mention for his excellent acting and because he was on stage for practically every scene with a huge amount of lines to learn, which he delivered unfalteringly.
Ophelia, played by Lily made for a tragic figure as her heart broke over Hamlet’s uncaring attitude towards her, leading to her insanity and suicide. Very beautiful singing incidentally at the burial scene, adding to the atmosphere.
Excellent acting also by King Claudius played by Oliver, who was also leaving having reached 18; and Laertes played by Oscar – both proving to be very strong in their roles. Gertrude (Dorcas) Horatio (Holly), Polonius (liv) all great performances.
Discussions. Photo by Gina Print © RSC
I wish there was space to mention everyone individually as each actor deserves recognition. The Players who entertain through their joviality and perform the ‘play within the play’ brought laughter and colour to The Other Place’s ‘round’ auditorium. But everyone played their parts well, from the ghosts to the gravediggers and the voice or conscience of Hamlet – all should be very proud of their performances.
The Company used every inch of the centre stage, with its seating all around. They also made good use of the balcony – perfect for the ghostly apparitions of young Hamlet’s father and Ophelia. The lighting, music and special effects were fantastic in bringing even more drama and suspense to scenes.
Rehearsing Hamlet. Photo by Gina Print © RSC.
It also has to be noted – how well the play was ‘signed’ by a BSL interpreter to assist members of the audience who had hearing loss. Also, screens up on the walls relayed captions and the script. Personally, I loved this additional facility not just because it assisted if you didn’t quite hear what was being said, but also to see and read Shakespeare’s brilliant words and phrases emphasised the sheer genius of the man. I haven’t read Shakespeare since school and to be able to read it in this way brought the beauty of his words home.
A fantastic performance and the standing ovation at the end of the play showed how much these young people were appreciated for their wonderful performance of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
About the Next Generation Act Company.
The Next Generation is the RSC’s talent development programme for young people aged 13 to 18, working in partnership with Associate Schools and Associate Regional Theatre Partners across the country. Company members from Next Generation Act work with them over a number of years, taking part in workshops, productions and skills development opportunities with RSC artists and Theatre Makers. The programme is divided into three sections: Act, Backstage and Direct. Young people from all these three strands are represented in this production of Hamlet.
Some former members of Next Generation Act Company back for a reunion visit. Also, Kate Rolfe Mayor of Stratford-upon-Avon and Victoria Alcock, Chairperson of the Stratford District Council. Photo © Ann Evans.
It was particularly nice to see that a group of former students from The Next Generation Act Company had made a return visit to the theatre to support the next generation. We spoke to some of the former students:
Jacob, now 20 has gone on to study Performing Arts at Plymouth Conservatoire. Looking back to his years at the Next Generation, he said: “It was an amazing experience. I can’t really remember what I thought of Shakespeare before I joined the company – but I adore Shakespeare now. It’s not just the acting, but it provides so many opportunities – watching plays and learning from them. The more you act and watch and analyse the better you become. It also offers networking opportunities.” Jacob plans on becoming a professional actor and has already appeared in a number of productions including Persuasion by Jane Austen in Plymouth. “Acting is my favourite thing to do!” he concluded.
Former student Callum agreed that it was an amazing time. “Those four or five years were amazing, we learnt so much. For me now, I’ve been in training for the police and will be joining the Police in September – and keeping acting as a hobby.”
Daisy left the Next Generation just last year. She said of the course, “Every year was different. The first year was all about getting to know each another and the theatre, the costumes – we were all just so excited, we couldn’t believe it all. During the Covid times we all still kept in touch with zoom calls, and then we did outdoor theatre, last year we did Henry VI Rebellion. That was the first big show that we’d done. We were all apprentices. It was the best experience having to run around at the end with people’s heads on spikes! I have a chest condition and that was taken into consideration all the way through, which was good.” Daisy now has taken on a different apprenticeship for her main job – with Specsavers.
The RSC Next Generation is generously supported by the Allan and Nesta Ferguson Charitable Trust, Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation, John S Cohen Foundation and Noel Coward Foundation.
The work of the RSC is also supported by the Culture Recovery Fund and the Arts Council England.
Next Generation Act Company bursary places are generously supported by The Leverhulme Trust Arts Scholarship.
Further details: https://www.rsc.org.uk