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"We have become very used to Hamlet productions with quite heavy concepts, set in specific times or settings.
“I think it’s very refreshing to be able to just tell the story in a simple way, which I hope we achieve.”
So says Tom Lawrence, one of the eight-strong cast bringing Shakespeare’s finest tragedy to Parham House as part of the Globe On Tour summer season.
“It feels like we are players from a bygone age but you can’t exactly locate the period with the design or costume. There are hints of an Elizabethan quality to it, or the turn of the century, but it’s not quite either. I think it’s because it is such a personal human story, which you can’t not relate to. It is timeless and relevant – and continues to be so.”
This will be Lawrence’s second year with the production, which is directed by the Globe’s artistic director Dominic Dromgoole and Bill Buckhurst, having played the multiple parts of Marcellus, Fortinbras, Osric and Rosencrantz last year.
This year sees him take on the role of the Prince of Denmark’s friend and confidant Horatio, alongside former RADA classmate Michael Benz in the title role, Carlyss Peer as Ophelia and Miranda Foster as Gertrude.
“I love Horatio as a character,” says Lawrence. “It’s a very different part. He’s the moral character in the tale and the only one to survive.”
Although he has spent much time on the story, he hasn’t tired of the play yet.
“You find yourself continually discovering new stuff,” he says. “Normally, after a couple of months of playing a role, the difficulty is keeping it alive and fresh. Because of the richness of the text, we are constantly discovering new things – it’s a play you can never tire of.”
The style of the production resembles that of the touring players who appear midway through the tragedy.
“It’s sort of rough and ready to a degree,” says Lawrence. “The first impression is that it is something that can be rigged up anywhere – whether in a field, an existing theatre or a castle. “A lot is left to the imagination and developed by the text. It has that heritage of the early touring Shakespeare – the companies that would go off into the regions and rig up a stage in the town square, rain or shine.”
This summer’s changeable climate has brought its own challenges. Lawrence has been enjoying the recent renaissance in the weather but also believes performing in the rain adds its own qualities.
“It’s strange, the rain focuses an audience. It can be quite amazing. We carry on to the bitter end and end up wet together.
“Being in the open air and surrounded by nature enhances the big ideas of the play. It asks such fundamental questions and deals with such big issues of purpose and faith, as well as the moral dilemma of revenge. “In some of the scenes you can imagine you’re sat on the battlements. There are scenes that benefit from being outside, with the rain coming down or the stars coming out.”
As regular audience members will know, the Globe’s take on Shakespeare isn’t only confined to the text. The production includes plenty of music, performed by the actors, to underline the action in among their multiple roles.
“There’s some really beautiful ambient music and percussive music to accompany the ghost,” says Lawrence, who will be going coast to coast across the US with the production after the regional tour ends in August.
“We use a thunderbox and inventive percussion such as a cymbal hit with a violin bow. There are lots of intelligent uses of instruments to make sounds as well as melodic tunes and songs to enhance the more moving moments.
“You have to be very concentrated and work as a team. It’s such a fast-paced production, we are all supporting each other all the time. It’s lovely to be a part of.”
- Hamlet is at Parham House And Gardens, Parham Park, Pulborough, on Monday, August 6, and Tuesday, August 7. The show starts at 7.30pm, tickets cost £17.50/£12. Call 0207 4019919