May 19 2013 Latest news:
Artistic director of the Hostry Festival, centre, Stash Kirkbride, who is also director and co-writer of Hamlet: The Undiscovered Country, with Peter Beck, left, co-writer, co-producer and playing the part of Claudius; and Peter Barrow, executive producer, play editor, and playing the part of Yorick. Picture: Denise Bradley
By EMMA KNIGHTS
Friday, August 10, 2012
What happens next after the final scene of one of Shakespeare’s most famous tragedies?
This is the question a team of Norfolk theatre folk hopes to provide some of the answers to in a brand new show being created to headline this year’s Hostry Festival, taking place at Norwich Cathedral in October and November.
Taking the closing scene of The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark as its starting point, Hamlet: The Undiscovered Country brings the characters back to life, and looks at what could have happened to them in another lifetime.
The show is the brainchild of Hostry Festival founder Stash Kirkbride, from Norwich, who first thought of the idea more than two decades ago, but has been biding his time to find the right mix of people to realise his theatrical vision.
“The idea has been bubbling for about 20 years,” he said. “I first thought of it at drama school, how it would be really interesting to continue the show of Hamlet after the final scene, somewhere in another world so that the stories of all the people that end up dying in the final scene of Hamlet can be explored again in Hamlet: The Undiscovered Country. Do they learn from their mistakes from their first life?
“I didn’t have the facilities or the actors back then, it just wasn’t the right time, but when I saw the team come together rehearsing The Rainmaker (the 2011 Hostry Festival headline show) I knew this was the right time.”
He has spent the last eight months working with Hostry Festival co-producer Peter Beck to create the script, and an original music score is being created by Chris Ellis.
“We are being inspired by probably one of the greatest playwrights and having a go at trying to tell another story, and I hope Shakespeare would love what we are doing,” Mr Kirkbride said.
The show begins with the closing scene of Hamlet before moving into an afterlife ambiguous in time and place. The language spoken is accessible but neither modern nor Elizabethan.
Mr Beck, who is playing Hamlet’s uncle Claudius, said: “It is an ambiguous show. It is not linked to a chosen afterlife but it is a space which has brought the characters together again and it looks at whether some characters would change their path or continue along the same path.”
He added that while the show tries to gives answers it also raises more questions.
“Any company, actor, director, or editor working on Hamlet soon realises the questions about the original Hamlet are unending, the possible answers are also unending. What we have done is a version of what may have happened next. There may be many more.
“We are following in the footsteps of lots of different authors who have taken Shakespeare’s plays and created a different version, like Tom Stoppard with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead.”
Among the characters the audience will meet is Yorick the court jester, who was just a skull exhumed by a gravedigger in the original show.
This time around he is complete with body and played by Peter Barrow, founder and executive producer of the Hostry Festival, who has edited the new play.
Mr Barrow, originally from Canada but now living in Norwich, and who is making the whole Hostry Festival possible by donating an inheritance left to him by his mother Betty, said: “In the show Yorick is the bearer of a bombshell, news that starts Hamlet on a new journey. He is the catalyst.
“He is more or less like the ghost from the original play, because the revenge story in Hamlet only starts when Hamlet finds out from the ghost what has happened to his father.”
Mr Barrow – who used to be an actor in the 1980s and early 1990s – said he was looking forward to taking on his third acting role for the Hostry Festival, having previously appeared in Tennessee Williams’ The Night of the Iguana and also The Rainmaker.
He said the festival was a great opportunity to tread the boards once more, and one of the reasons he was helping to fund the project it that it gave everyone from old hands to first-timers a chance to take part.
Hamlet: The Undiscovered Country is being presented alongside a performance by Norwich-based inclusive theatre group Total Ensemble called Prologue, which aims to remind the audience of key scenes from Shakespeare’s Hamlet prior to the new play.
About 60 people – from professional performers to amateur actors and those just starting out in their careers – are involved in the Shakespeare double bill, which opens on October 30 and runs until November 3.
Following on from the show, Mr Kirkbride hopes it will become popular with schools and touring groups, and he hopes to create a film of the show set in Norfolk.
For now the focus is the rehearsals, which start in September, and the opening night.
He added: “I am quietly excited. I think when we see it acted out with all the trimmings, the set, the costumes, I think we could be in for something very powerful, moving and entertaining. It will be a lot of fun.”
The double bill is being sponsored by Fosters Solicitors and the John Jarrold Trust. Performances take place from October 30 until November 3 at 7.30pm each night. Tickets £15. To book call 01603 218450 or visit www.hostryfestival.org