Hamlet in the open air

The Festival Players Theatre Company bring their outdoor summer tour of Shakespeare's Hamlet to the Brighton Open Air Theatre (BOAT) on Thursday, August 31.


Spokeswoman Su Gilroy said: “This year is the 400th anniversary of the death of the nation’s (arguably the world’s) greatest playwright, William Shakespeare, and The Festival Players Theatre Company is proud to present his most famous play, Hamlet. This theatre company from Gloucestershire, which has been touring professional outdoor Shakespeare productions for over 30 years, is taking the play across the UK and into Europe.

“Presented in full costume, an all-male company brings the excitement of this great thriller: intrigue, ghostly visitations, passion, a play-within-a-play, a gripping duel, and humour, in a crystal-clear and fast-paced two-hour production.

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“The players perform more than 80 shows over the summer across England, Scotland, Wales and the Isles of Scilly and as far afield as Belgium, Berlin, the Netherlands and Norway, at an increasingly varied number of locations from stately homes to London commons, Scottish castles to English village greens, island botanical gardens to Roman amphitheatres.”

Su added: “Thought to have been first performed in 1600 and possibly the greatest tragedy in the English language, Hamlet is a story of revenge. Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark, is haunted by the ghost of his father, who tells him that he was murdered by his own brother, Claudius. Claudius not only wears the late king’s crown but has also married his wife, Gertrude, Hamlet’s mother. Hamlet has lost his father and his opportunity to be king, and possibly his sanity; can he believe the ghost, and if so how should he exact revenge? And who else will suffer along the way?”

Festival Players Artistic Director Michael Dyer has reduced the play to two hours.

He said: “Our shows are an amalgam of energy, entertainment and colour, and we aim to make them clear and transparent, as well as keeping them short for the comfort of our patrons. We set out to take audiences of all ages on a journey and make them feel very much part of the production.

“A small cast of six play multiple roles demanding quick costume changes, as well as performing as singers and musicians. This gives an exciting opportunity for the actors to show their energy and versatility.”

This will be Michael’s 12th all-male production in a row for the Players: “It is, of course, totally authentic. We are following in the footsteps of Shakespeare’s own Globe Theatre when all roles were taken by men. The Players have built a reputation for strong, all-male shows over the past eleven years.”

Last year The Festival Players toured As You Like it and Henry IV and many of those actors have returned this year. The title role of Hamlet will be played by Benjamin Way, who was Rosalind in As You Like It and Poins, Justice Shallow and Prince John in Henry IV. Mark Spriggs was Falstaff in Henry IV and Touchstone in As You Like It, and this year will play Claudius. Joel Daffurn, who has been with the company since 2013, will play Laertes, Guildenstern and the First Player, and taking the roles of Polonius, Gravedigger and Second Player is Paul Mills, also with the company since 2013. Michael Dyer himself will play the part of the ghost of Hamlet’s Father.

Newcomers to the company this year are Lee Peck and Jonny James-Jones, both of whom trained at East 15 Acting School. Lee Peck will be playing Gertrude and Horatio and has previously played Romeo in Romeo & Juliet and Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the Young Shakespeare Company, and was Malcolm in a radio production of Macbeth. Jonny James-Jones will be playing Ophelia, Rosencrantz and Osric.

Tickets on www.thefestivalplayers.co.uk/tour.

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