On Wednesday 13 November 2013, Dartford Grammar School staged a successful 30-minute performance of Shakespeare’s Hamlet as part of the Shakespeare Schools Festival at the Mick Jagger Centre. Other schools performing on the night were Grange Park School who performed Macbeth, Northumberland Heath Primary School who performed A Midsummer Night’s Dream and St Catherine’s Catholic School for Girls who performed Much Ado About Nothing.
Hamlet is a play that takes place in Denmark. Hamlet's father, the king, has died and his uncle, Claudius, has married Hamlet's widowed mother, Gertrude, and taken over the throne. One night Hamlet's father's ghost is spotted and talks to Hamlet and tells him that Claudius killed him. Hamlet is to revenge his murder. The themes of the play are revenge, family, guilt and corruption.
Rehearsals for Hamlet took place every week for two months in order to get the performance as good as possible and this certainly paid off as Dartford Grammar School put on a stunning performance featuring fantastic acting, excellent lighting that set the scene and tone perfectly, a superb ensemble and terrific live music from our very own students in the wings of the stage. Pupils from Years 7 to 13 took part in this performance which was a reminder to us all the vast amount of talent that we have within the school.
After the weekly rehearsals, the final process of the Shakespeare Schools Festival was on the day of the performance, the students went through a technical and dress rehearsal as well as the other schools who were to present on the evening. Shakespeare Schools Festival condensed the four plays down to half an hour performances (meaning that the stories were fast moving, while still keeping the main body of the stories there) each, consisting of a two and a half hour exhibition including a short interlude.
When it came to the final performance, all tickets were sold out a week before the show and in the audience we were lucky enough to have the Deputy Mayor of Dartford come and watch. He was also only complimentary of the efforts put in by Dartford Grammar School. The response from the parents also universally agreed, saying it was “one of the best school productions that I have ever seen”.
Deputy Mayor, Councillor Avtar Sandhu MBE, added: “My final four words to sum up the performances as a whole – enthusiastic, vibrant, comedic, heart-wrenching.”
Director and Head of Drama, Mrs. Rachael Iddiols, said: “I think the cast were fantastic as they were energised but focused throughout the entire show. It was so nice to see them working as a whole cast and supporting each other and I thought their performances were excellent. The whole cast gave 100% and they created an excellent show. I was very proud to have worked with them."
She commented: “It was so nice to see such a diverse group of schools working on such different plays. I think the atmosphere was fantastic and the whole evening a great success. I have to say that the Primary school was particularly good and for such a young cast to learn all the lines and have such characterisation and focus on stage is very exciting for the future.”
“I would like to thank all the students who took part in the show for being such an amazing cast to work with and being so dedicated. This also goes for the musicians who took part, the marketing team who have done an amazing job and the other staff members who helped on the night and came to support us. It was a great show and I look forward to next year.”
Abigail Alltimes who starred as Ophelia said: “I thoroughly enjoyed my time performing Hamlet with a fantastic, enthusiastic cast at the Shakespeare Schools Festival in the Mick Jagger Centre, despite the initial apprehension and butterflies behind stage. The whole cast were anticipating watching what the other schools had created and we were not disappointed with the whole evening being packed with comedy, suspense and tragedy. Wednesday night’s performance was definitely our best with our nerves managing to hold steady enabling us to deliver our interpretation of Hamlet, thanks to the guidance of our director Mrs. Iddiols. I really relished performing to a receptive audience and being able to place our mark upon such a thought provoking play. I loved working with a cast who were supportive in the wings and imaginative in their characterisation. I look forward to my next engagement with Shakespeare.”
Sam Ogden who portrayed the menacing villain of the play, Claudius, said: “Wednesday's performance was a wonderful conclusion to a long and sometimes quite difficult journey. The work that everyone put into Hamlet was immense, and really paid off when the time came. To say that I am proud of all my fellow actors is a huge understatement, and it was a privilege to perform alongside both them and the evening's other casts.”
Written by Isabel Rushmer and Jason Taing