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Festival Players Theatre Company production of Hamlet

Benjamin Way as Hamlet
Benjamin Way as Hamlet

Acclaimed Festival Players Theatre Company brings its dynamic all-male production of Shakespeare’s famous tragedy Hamlet to the Bread & Roses Theatre.

This year is the 400th anniversary 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, took the play across the UK and into Europe this summer and will be at the Bread & Roses Theatre in Clapham for three weeks this autumn – 27th September to 15th October 2016, Tuesday to Saturday evenings at 7.30pm with Thursday matinees at 1.30pm.

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 2-hour production.

The players will have performed 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.

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? As the song ‘That’s Entertainment’, the famous anthem to show business, puts it: “Some great Shakespearean scene, Where a ghost and a prince meet, And everyone ends in mincemeat!

Festival Players Artistic Director Michael Dyer has brought the play, the bard’s longest, to a manageable length of 2 hours in the company’s trademark accessible format. Says Dyer: “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. It is directed by Worcestershire based Dyer, former director of Cornwall’s Minack Open Air Theatre.

Benjamin Way, Lee Peck, Joel Daffurn
Benjamin Way, Lee Peck, Joel Daffurn

This is Dyer’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 is 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 a memorable Falstaff in Henry IV and Touchstone in As You Like It and this year plays Claudius. Joel Daffurn, who has been with the company since 2013, plays 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 plays the small but vitally important 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 plays 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, who plays Ophelia, Rosencrantz and Osric, played the Duke of Buckingham in Richard III at the Tower of London.

Music has been specially written for Hamlet by folk star Johnny Coppin (front man of the cult Seventies folk-rock group Decameron). Gloucestershire-based Coppin, who regularly tours the folk and acoustic circuit, adds a special ingredient with his original songs and instrumentals involving all the cast.



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