Performed at St Martin-cum-Gregory church, Micklegate, York
from 18th July – 3rd August 2013
and at The Dell, Stratford on 11 August 2013
Hamlet was directed by John Topping from County Durham. John is a teacher and humanist celebrant as well as a director, and has directed over 100 productions mostly in a university or college setting, including ‘Candide’ for Leeds Youth Opera in February 2013.
Read John’s interview with The York Press here.
We were very pleased to return to St Martin-cum-Gregory church Micklegate for our production of Hamlet. We were previously there for Henry IV Parts 1 and 2 in 2010.
St Martin’s is a deconsecrated medieval church currently in development as a centre for the study of stained glass. It is a Grade 1 listed building with an 11th century nave, a decorated pulpit dating from 1636, and an altarpiece from the mid eighteenth century showing the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer and The Creed. In a window at the top end of the South Aisle appears the wild boar emblem of Richard III. YSP are enormously grateful to The Stained Glass Trust for the opportunity to perform in this extraordinary space once again.
Photographs by John Saunders. For more photographs from the production, click here.
Cast (in alphabetical order):
Claudius: Maurice Crichton
Player Queen/Gentlewoman: Emma Dubruel
Laertes: Daniel Hardy
Ghost/Player King/Priest: Nick Jones
Francisco/4th Player/Gravedigger: Bill Laverick
Polonius: Clive Lyons
Ophelia: Katie McIntyre
Gertrude: Jennifer Page
Rosencrantz/Osric: Andy Quarrel
Marcellus/Guildenstern/Lord: Ben Sawyer
Barnardo/3rd Player/Gravedigger: Jamie Searle
Hamlet: Peter Watts
Horatio: Alexander Wilson
Musicians: Joe Steele, Dan Hardy, Nick Jones, Alex Wilson
Director: John Topping
Asst Director: Helen Wilson
Composer and Musical Director: Joe Steele
Costume Design: Helen Taylor
Lighting: Paul Hepworth, Karen Millar
Fight Director: Neil Tattersall
Stage Manager: Shaun Bradley
Weapon Consultant: Jeremy Muldowney
Deputy Stage Manager: Izzy Carrick
Company Text Notes: Julia Atkinson
Publicity: Rachel Alexander-Hill
Poster Image: Jill Maris
Publicity Design: ladahuntdesign.co.uk
Photographer: John Saunders
Finance: Sam Valentine
Charles Hutchinson in the York Press wrote: ‘ “I will know my Hamlet when I see him,” said freelance director John Topping ahead of auditions for his debut York Shakespeare Company production.
It was no surprise when he picked Peter Watts, the most exciting actor of his generation at the University of York.
The challenge for any actor passed the baton to play the tormented Danish prince is to know his Hamlet. Christopher Eccleston reckoned he had tapped into maybe 50 per cent of Hamlet by the time he concluded his 2002 debut in the role at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, adding more the more he played him in London. Peter Watts is a boldly experimental actor and consequently no two performances are ever the same, a quality that so attracted Topping, an esteemed former university performing arts lecturer and head of department, to work with him.
Maybe Watts will never totally know his Hamlet but his journey will be fascinating. On press night last Thursday, for example, he cried in an early scene, a course of action he had not taken even once in rehearsals apparently. On occasion he has taken to walking on the pulpit railings of St Martin-cum-Gregory Church, but he chose not to on Thursday. Katie Macintyre’s Ophelia never knows what to expect in his “violent” scene when advising her speedy exit to a nunnery.
All this uncertainty is no doubt stimulating rather than unnerving for the cast around him, but you are very much aware that it is a performance, a piece of playing that is yet to find its core. Watts has a heap of stage presence, more physicality than usually associated with Hamlet, a keen eye for stinging humour and a silver tongue that relishes language: all qualities that he uses to the max, and you sense there is more to come in weeks two and three once he settles down as a poetic thinker, more than a young man of action.
His diction needs to be clearer in the first half: not easy in the acoustic of a church that tends to muffle sound but the likes of Maurice Crichton’s outstanding Claudius, Alex Wilson’s Horatio, Daniel Hardy’s Laertes and YSP debutante Emma Dubruel’s Player Queen are all as clear as the percussive bells in Joe Steele’s vibrant yet dark score.
Katie Macintyre gives an uneven performance as Ophelia, at its strongest when she sings in her harrowing finale, but too rushed in her delivery earlier on when words are lost.
Clive Lyons’s Polonius, Nick Jones’s Ghost/Player King and Jennifer Page’s Gertrude are among the experienced hands that anchor Topping’s production, while the humorous Scottish-Anglo alliance of Andy Quarrell’s Rosencrantz and Ben Sawyer’s Guildenstern knock any thoughts of devolution on the head.
Topping’s Hamlet is contemporary (modern suits for Claudius, jeans for Hamlet, tattoos for Bill Laverick’s Gravedigger, courtesy of costume designer Helen Taylor) and yet of its time in its sword fights and stained-glass church setting. It carries a modern energy in its bristling performance style and its shortened running time of three hours, and Peter Watts will certainly have you talking.’