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HAMLET FROM ACTORS CO-OPERATIVE (article first published : 2003-01-16)

Director Garth Anderson has finalised what seems to be the perfect casting for his production of Hamlet which will play a two week season at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre in February before embarking on a tour to the Hilton College Theatre, the Pattundeen Theatre in Chatsworth and the Empangeni Civic Centre.

As opposed to Garth’s last Shakespeare, Macbeth - dubbed “post-apocalyptic tribal” - where the company dressed in chains and leather, Hamlet’s cast will be clad in refreshingly trendy cotton and jeans. He calls it his “Neo-Romantic flower-power Hamlet”.

It will play to both public and schools audiences, as did his award winning Macbeth, which received no less than eight Vita Award nominations, winning the coveted Best Actor Award for its star Ben Voss. It played to over 20,000 learners in three weeks. Garth hopes to beat this record with Hamlet and has been communicating with schools throughout the province for the past six months. The Sneddon season is already more than half sold out.

In the name role of this full-scale presentation of William Shakespeare’s immortal tragedy will be relative newcomer Neil Coppen. For this talented and versatile young actor, playing the coveted role of Hamlet, “the unhappy prince who has bad dreams” will undoubtedly be a leap in the right direction. Over the Festive Season he played the juvenile lead in the pantomime Red Coat Tales, probably the toughest of all theatrical forms.

Sharing the limelight in this veritable soap opera of love and hatred and passion will be the beautiful and intelligent Jodi Black. Presently based in Cape Town, Jodi was on holiday in KZN when she auditioned for director Garth Anderson. He knew at once that there was no other actress he wanted for the role of Ophelia. With her sharply contemporary understanding of Shakespeare’s used and abused heroine, and her smouldering good looks, Jodi was immediately offered the part. She brings a 21st Century immediacy to Ophelia, the oft-ignored, lovelorn pawn in the life-and-death games and intrigues that Garth sees infesting the Royal Court of Denmark.

In the pivotal role of Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude, Garth has scored something of a theatrical coup de grace. By persuading veteran superstar of stage and radio, Margaret Logan back onto the boards, he has uncovered a powerful talent that brings a stylish vitality and excitement back to the theatre. Margaret has not performed for many years, though she has kept in constant touch with her theatre friends and has a son and several daughters intimately involved with the entertainment industry. In the days of Springbok Radio, Margaret’s dulcet tones radiated loud and clear across the whole country. Father Dear Father, Lux Radio Theatre, The Men From The Ministry, From Crystal With Love and The Romantic World Of Barbara Cartland were only a few of the many popular Springbok Radio plays and serials with which Margaret was associated either as actor or writer.

Garth will play opposite Logan as Claudius, Hamlet’s charismatic uncle, who it seems is hiding a past and whose relationship with Gertrude Hamlet calls to question. No stranger to Shakespeare, Garth directed last year’s Macbeth and Othello and, as with Hamlet, managed to put in support appearances in both. He was nominated for the Vita Best Actor Award for his Malvolio in Ralph Lawson’s Twelfth Night.

Other big names gracing the cast of this enormous production seem to be pulled from the Who’s Who of KZN Theatre. Returning from Johannesburg specially, Bryan Hiles will bring his youthful charm to the part of the philosophic, gentlemanly Horatio, Hamlet’s one true friend. Master comic Edwin Khumalo, remembered for his wonderfully funny performance as Fabian in the Playhouse’s Twelfth Night, will cameo as The Gravedigger. Joel Zuma as The Player King will star in Shakespeare’s play within-a-play, The Mousetrap, which forms the denouement of the tragedy. Edward Berridge will be seen as Rosencrantz, Hamlet’s unctuous and suspiciously over-friendly ex-school chum. Rowan Bartlett has the coveted part of Polonius.

Newcomer Oded Rouche plays Laertes, Ophelia’s jealous brother, and Giuseppe Mac Tavish has the role of scene-stealer, Osric. David Cowley completes the impressive cast.

Hamlet plays at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre from February 25 to March 9. Public performances are at 19h00 on February 28 and March 7. The show then transfers to the Hilton College Theatre from March 10 to 14 with one public performance on March 13 at 19h30.

Schools bookings in Durban can be made by phoning Margi on 031 266 1459 or 083 251 9412. Public booking is through Computicket. All Hilton bookings can be made through Doreen on 033 343 0126. Any other queries to the Actors Co-operative on 083 439 1532.

Hamlet is presented by the Actors Co-Operative in association with the National Arts Council.




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