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week 1

A Rehearsal Scrapbook
To cut or not to cut. Hamlet is perhaps the most revered play in the canon, perhaps the most
familiar. But theres no such thing as a definitive production, perhaps because theres no
such thing as a definitive text. The first published edition we have of the play, the First
Quarto, has lines like To be or not to be. Aye, theres the point and is usually referred
to as the Bad Quarto. Its short: about 2,200 lines (a bit longer than Macbeth and
The Tempest), but it is nearly half the length of the next edition, the Second Quarto, which
is 3,900 lines. Shakespeare must have continued to revise the play as it continued in the
repertoire of the company, because by the time his fellow actors published the Complete Works
edition after his death (the First Folio) the text had been cut and substantially rearranged.
He cant ever have imagined the play would have been performed at that length, as plays
at the Globe went up at two oclock and had to be down by between four and five, so perhaps
he prepared an edition for the library, a bit like the directors cut in the film industry,
for the aficionados private enjoyment.
The first time the full Folio text was played was here in Stratford, in 1899 by Frank Benson.
They played up to the end of the closet scene in the afternoon and then resumed the rest of
the play in the evening. The first marathon Shakespeare day!
On the afternoon of the first day of rehearsals we visit the Shakespeare Centre Library in
Henley Street, where Head Librarian Sylvia Morris gets out the RSCs own copy of the First
Folio for the company to look at. At the front is my favourite page: the list of all the
actors who first appeared in the plays. After Shakespeare comes Richard Burbage, the first
Hamlet; further down the list is Joseph Taylor, who took over the part after his death,
thus beginning a long line which goes through Betterton, Garrick, Kemble, Kean, Macready,
Irving, Gielgud, Olivier and on up to David Tennant now.
Gregory Doran
Designing the Production
The design process begins design model. Initially this and designers vision of
with the director and is a very rough version in the piece. It is integral
designer discussing their white card. This is used to to the process of
individual responses to work out if the design is communication. From this
the play and then working workable (and affordable!) finished model, sets of
together to establish the and allows us to develop a detailed working drawings
world in which the play will number of different design are prepared in order to
be set. We will look through solutions to any problems work out the mechanics and
numerous paintings, that may arise. Once refined, actually build the set. All
photographs and any other this is then followed by a the carpentry, metal work
visual aids which might very detailed finished model, and painting is processed by
provide inspiration for with many of the props and the RSC workshops to produce
the set and costumes. furniture modelled to the finished piece, including
In the case of Hamlet it absolute scale. This is building specific scenic
was established from a very a vital tool, which helps props (like the chandeliers
early stage that it would everyone from actors to in this production).
be a mirrored world and we lighting designers to
Robert Jones, Designer
then began to explore ideas composers to the workshops
around this. Next comes the to visualise the director
week 2

we are on their own charac
For a second week me ti me s th er e ar e intense
ble So
sitting around a ta have every relief from
wo rd -b y- disagreements. We As a little light
exploring th e te xt
le ed it io n of th e play wo rk we watch
. The whole possib all the brain
word, line-by-line at ha nd to consult various an episod e of Th e Si mpsons
re ad th e pl ay in ns . .
co mp an y editorial op in io h Bart play Hamlets
turns, scene-by-sce
ne, and
it ab ly th e ed it or s tend to in whic is a st ic ke r
into their Inev Above his be d
then put each line the point
ma y so un d fall silent on just ti ng . which reads Danes
do it
own words. This rs wa nt il lu mi na
reveals how the acto Melancholy.
laborious, but it Friday
me yo u kn ow By the time we get to gner,
easy it is to assu ho w and we read the wh
ole play Robert Jones, desi
s me an , an d ti me in e Ro wl and, our
what the word through for the fir
st and Christin
is to be re al ly is re ad y an d e su pe rv is or , begin
hard it
s it on e go, everyone costum
at s with
specific. Sometime prepared. having costume ch
ec on ce pt io ns , th e co mp any.
shatters pr members of
ti me s co nfi rm s th em. Th e pr oc es s reveals images as si st an t di re ct or,
some id es wh ic h can The
me on e pr ov sc ri pt io ns so me of the
Occasionally so and de
oked, like Cressida, and
bl e t ra ns la ti on ; ea si ly be ov er lo pr es en t a re he arsed
a memora ra bl e il li ng company
th ad mi Shakespear e s ch ic id e
Andrea Harris, wi Claudius reading of Fratr
slates the description of how eenth
alliteration, tran Punished, a sevent
ou nt eb an k as ke ep s Ro se nc ra ntz and y Ge rm an ve rs ion of
word M ke a n ap e an centur
de an d Guildens te rn li s a
drug-dealing du Hamlet, which ha
nsas roots) apple, in the corner of its account
(revealing her Arka to d to be la st particularly funny
ea ms mouth, first mo ut he away from
converts John-a-Dr a sh oc king, of how Hamlet got
an d- ru n . swallo we d . It s It st rikes us
Who-hit-John- t the pirates.
me ta ph ys ic al, almost absurdis is mi gh t be a fragment
y ou r co llective re he ar sal that th
Ve ry qu ic kl image. Th e wo rk of so metimes
ay is esh mint of the Ur-Hamlet,
knowledge of the pl be to tr y an d fr Th om as Ky d, which
ed . No -o ne is al lowed to will th es e. ascribed to
enhanc such as e.
or comment images Shakespeare rewrot
read their own part

The Text
and Voice Coach
All productions have the
support of text and voice
coaches. In rehearsal we
work on the language by
exploring the dynamics of
sound and rhythm and provide
opportunities for actors
to approach the text in a
physical and visceral way.
We also assist actors in
their quest to build vocal
and breathing stamina,
flexibility and muscularity
as well as to make
connections between text,
voice and character. This
entails work on the body
as well as the voice and
a movement practitioner
has worked with us on
Hamlet. Text, voice and
movement coaches also work
on the understudy roles,
offering actors the time
and space to play with the
text and organically develop
their performances. Voice
and movement warm-ups take
place before every
performance and these
help actors prepare their
voices and bodies and
focus their minds.
Lyn Darnley,
Head of Text, Voice
and Artist Development
week 3

ng the
play s p
lowly, lay down. T
chance scene- his we
to inv by ek we
other estiga -scene. It work t
and to te the g
argue challe ir rel ives everyo ugh the
for ot nge li ations ne the
hers t nes th hi
we rea
ssess o go. at hav ps with eac
Denmar th As e b h
k. Unl e impact of a result of een cut, or
father ike hi t h e new t h is pro
, s b cess
single who had cha elligerent king,
combat llenge predec Claudius, o
on the and wa d the ol e s s n
i s not d King or, Hamlet
Norway ce, Claudiu above o f Norway s
b s sl
Voltem y diplomati has managed edding his to
an c t po
who ha d and Corne efforts alo o avoid war leaxe
d been lius ( ne. Co
action cut, r Cornel nseque with
hero, e- ia ntl
Fortin enter the p in our prod y
bras. lay, a u
Ki s does ction),
Laerte ng continue the
s. The s work
a half yv on the
for th e worked ev fi
struct e first ery mo ght with Ha
ur t rn mlet a
the re e. Now ther wo weeks on ing for an nd
hearsa e will r o u g hing o h our an
l room be reg ut d
itself ular s
g thro . ession the
solilo ug s outs
quy of h Act Three ide
here? all: we rea
Why, a To be, ch the
the Pl ft o m
ayers er Hamlet h r not to be ost famous
catch tears as fou . Why
nd suc
has he e conscienc
at Hec
ub h insp is it
descen e of t a, when he iratio
n in
he kin h
sm? A
ded in
to thi g with as decided
Quarto s olutio s T h to
, n pres slough of d e Mousetrap
time w the speech ents i
e appear
father see Hamlet s in A elf. In the cy and
s spi follow ct Two First
distra ri in , a
cted p t and since g the encou nd is the fi
adopti ri O nt rs
ng thi nces appea phelias de er with his t
s stru rance script
cture. in her io
G.D. closet n of the
. We t
The Fight Director
The fight scenes begin
with a discussion with
the director and the
actors about what sort
of fight they consider to
be appropriate: how the
characters relate to the
fight and how they would
feel about fighting.
From there we build up
various moves, listen
to various suggestions,
and through rehearsal
we refine these until
hopefully we realise
the vision of what we
want the fight to be.
Most actors dont have
the specific technical
knowledge of how to use
a sword, so I try to
interpret what they want
to communicate and make
the fights expressive of
that, but also accurate.
Taking voice as an
example, if you talk
very quietly on the
stage it might seem
very realistic, but the
audience wont be able
to hear at the back.
The same applies to
swordplay. You have to
interpret and experiment
with what is precisely
accurate in order to
make it appear realistic
on stage.

The biggest challenge

in Hamlet is that there
is nothing to distract
attention from the
fights. Arranging big
fight scenes with lots
of people on stage
does present its own
problems, but it also
means that the swordplay
doesnt necessarily
have to be very clever,
because your eyes are
constantly being pulled
all around the stage. In
Hamlet there is a lot of
focus on just two people
fighting; they are the
centre of attention.

Terry King,
Fight Director
week 4

She puts her finger on

the challenge we fac
Everybody might now e.
know precisely what
talking about, but it they are
This week we are finally on our feet is not only literal
that is important wit meaning
sketching out the whole play. With a little h Shakespeare. His pow
simple stage geography applied, the scenes also conveyed throug er is
h the rhythm and sou
language; the sound nd of the
begin to move themselves. To keep the play must seem an echo to
sense. the
fluid and fast-moving weve allowed very
little furniture. On a more mundane lev
el, we have to decide
Movement director Michael Ashcroft begins to place the interval. where
Shakespeare didnt hav
work on the dumbshow and we try to work out intervals, but these e
days they are demand
both by audiences and ed,
the difference between it and the bar managers. So, whe
play-within-a-play. In examining the to put it? What about re
after the play? But
that would interrupt surely
staging of this it seems the real focus the furious dynamic
leads right through that
of the audiences attention should be on that terrible day to
closet scene and on the
Claudius and Gertrude. It is they who are to Hamlets departure
England? Before the for
on display. play? Too early, sur
about two intervals? ely? What
One when Hamlet decide
On Tuesday we rehearse for the first time to rely solely on the s not
evidence of the Ghost
on the Courtyard stage. The working lights set The Mousetrap, and but to
perhaps one just bef
are on the stage and the auditorium is lit Eggshell scene, as ore the
Hamlet witnesses For
by the house lights, so we cant see the army marching agains tinbras
t a corner of Poland
actors faces; their voices must carry the finally determines to and
accept his fate and
scene. Cicely Berry, the RSCs Director of longer. But that wou delay no
ld make a long evenin
Text and Voice, is watching and listening longer. So where is g even
the ideal cliffhanger?
intently at the back of the auditorium.
The Movement Director
The movement director has various physical, in which case you can
roles, dependant on the type of put those skills to use. It is
production and on what the hard to plan too much before
director wants. Sometimes the rehearsals begin, as there is
director will ask for a dance, no point creating a lovely big
so it is then my job to go away dance routine, then arriving
and, working with the composer, in rehearsal to discover that
choreograph a dance routine. it doesnt look right or isnt
Sometimes a director might not suitable for the actor.
be totally sure what they require
physically in a scene. A lot The movement and choreography
of the time the process is is something that develops
simply trying out different throughout the rehearsal
forms of movement and physical process in discussions with
styles. These can then be refined the director, the composer
and developed back in the and the actors. It is a very
rehearsal room. collaborative process.

A lot depends on the actors. Michael Ashcroft,

You might find somebody in the Movement Director
company who is very, very
week 5

d scene.
: the ma
Act Four alled her skin
5 7 9 a girl c m u r d er) then uddy,
I n 1
e H a m let was h i s
u i c k l y become m
Kathar i n
the Avon
at would q raw with
e d i n a m t c h e d and red- how
dro w n upstr e sc r a this is
on, just e Perhaps
Tiddingt Sha k e s p e a r s t i n g s .
sc e n e .
atford. the mad
from Str M a r i ah Gale, to play d
was fifte
e n . ho playe
y s O p h elia, an
E l l e n Terry, w H e n r y
who pl a where opposite
the spot Ophelia ably the
I visit t t o h a v e
v i n g , was prob an
it was m
e a n in I r to visit
e d , a s recorded fi r s t actress
r c h t h e
happe n s of th e o resea
t record asylum t ess. Thi
the Cour w e w a l k a long
a r a c t e rs madn e a c hed
h e n c h b l y r
time. T a s t w i l lows i t i a t i v e possi
9 8 9 ,
the Avon
, p
the rive
r. in n, in 1
a s l a n t i t s h e ight whe R y l a n c es
growing t h e r e are tall R S C t o ok Mark h e
pot the r, t
In one s lossom. Broadmoo
k e s o f purple b p l e s , H a mlet to t h e c riminall
spi o n g p u r t a l f o r t h e
the l hospi do a run
They are u d e d e s cribes s a n e , t o
rtr in
which Ge land of
O p h e l ias gar o w inmates.
i n T h e y g r hat each
weeds .
n g i n g e h a v e agreed t mad
nks of s
t i W rse the
among ba e r o f t he t i m e we rehea a c t o rs
(anoth other
nettles i a h a s gathered s c e ne, the w h a t r o ute
phel curs t know
plants O . I t o c w i l l n o s s we are
r h e r g arland) w e r e p h e l i a s madne
at if Ma
riah to O igates
to us th i n g , w hat inst er
t h e t a k nse to h
to try g e t t l e s , i t . W h at is se t o t h em.
o n g p u r ples, n s , t h e s t s e e m lunacy t
l er mu d tha
crow flow once sai
daisies, e n n e l , pansie
s Someone e n people s
m a r y , f c t s s i s w h
ro s e e col l e madn e s nd y . o u
which sh o understa
and rue fu n e r a r y t r y i n g t
magined ather
in her i r dead f Claudius

r i b u t e f o r h e
d h u g g e r E l sewhere, b e i n g taught
t a hurrie e rs are
e d i n S w i t z
(buri y after military
f secrec a bit of
mugger o n e by Sta
discipli R o b e rtson
Sgt. Ro s swell
Nick Ca
and Sgt. b r anch of
from the Army.
the Terr
Composing the
I normally begi
n to sketch ou
conversation wi t ideas after
th the director reading the sc
production, e. about the prop ript and an in
g. will it be osed style and itial
fast-paced prod a period settin feel of the
uction or star g or contempora
always inspirin k and minimal ry, a very phys
g and I often in design. The ical,
music. Many of try to match th model showing
Shakespeares e at mosphere of th is
place to start plays have song e set with the
in finding a ha s in them, and
requires active rm on ic language fo that can be a
participation r the piece. An good
music, needs to on stage, i.e. y music which
be written earl songs, dances
in the context y in the proces or onstage band
of the scenes. s so that it ca
early, in orde In Hamlet I ne n be rehearsed
r that Ophelia eded to get Op
and the rest of helias songs
At some point the cast had ti written
during rehearsa me to learn th
decide where we ls, well sit em.
think music sh and go through
underscore is ould go and wh th e script and
written as the at its function
music needs to scenes take sh is. The score
do; for exampl ap e and it becomes and
with music or, e, sometimes on clear what the
alternatively, e wants to ushe
music might tr linger on a mo r in the next
y to mirror ho ment at the en scene
or some other w a character d of a scene.
threat is appr is feeling, or The
the technical oaching. The sc indicate that
period, as prac ore is still be an army
tical matters ing worked on
Paul Englishby, of te n dictate the through
Composer length of cues
week 6
Back to the top of the play. Lots
ess of questions have emerged, which now
dy Proc
The U nderstu take pa
rt need answering. The text may allow
R S C a gree to er to ambiguity, but actors cant act it.
the ss in o
ors at We need to make choices. Thats the
All act derstudy proce still go on in .
in the
un can sent difference between reading a play
e play eing ab f
n s u r e that th of any actor b c a s t o and acting it.
e y le
ntualit re doub hout
the eve s that an enti arallel throug When did Claudius and Gertrude
i s m e a n n g i n p a m o u n t
Th arsi can begin their affair? Was it before
is rehe se rehearsals h
Hamlet he ur l u n c Old Hamlets death? Is that why the
cess. T half-ho over green
the pro vening calls, c h a ts Ghost accuses them of adultery?
e t e ky
to long and three-minu ng can be tric Why does Hamlet adopt his antic
n g s t c h i
meeti ime sna all the actors
ffee. T en
disposition? Does Hamlet realise
room co et, as almost are oft he is being overheard in the nunnery
ml ay and
with Ha d during the d ghts Dream in scene? Does Claudius actually reveal
le Ni
are cal g A Midsummer , I am
e r f o r m in t h e s a me time als in case his guilt in his reaction to The
p At ars Mousetrap, or is that Hamlets
the eve
nings. of rehe the scenes;
t o s l ip out t s i n imagination, and what does Horatio
nt en
relucta ucial developm ative in their think? Why does the Ghost appear in
c r c r e cters
I miss ipals a
re so h e chara the closet scene, and what effect
i n c t t em
the p r als t h a ing, se
y t i m e rehears herefore block does that have on his old family?
da d t
ons, an session. Does he prevent his sons attack on
intenti e v e r y to his mother? Is that his intention?
to chan
ge rstudy
l f o r an unde iew period, Why doesnt Gertrude see the Ghost
ua v
the pre t public
ot unus
It is n o on, even in o u r firs
if, after all, mere soldiers like
g oward s y busy
have to h urtle t actors are ver fights
Barnado and Marcellus do? Why does
s w e Gertrude seem not to have run to
and a l the c and
ance al g, musi s.
perform words, blockin principal role s. help Ophelia as she drowns? Why does
learni n g rdina r y e dem na Shakespeare put the invitation to
o p o f their o nfazed by thes the duel in the mouth of a waterfly
on t em u
they se
Luckily like Osric? When does Gertrude
a Brown or realise the cup is poisoned?
Cressid r e ct
nt Di
Assista We might not have all the answers,
but perhaps we have some of the
right questions.

The Costume
On this production of
Hamlet the designer and
costume supervisor have
involved the actors as much
as possible in the design
process. For the newly made
period costumes fabrics were
sampled from both national
and international
suppliers. The RSC Cutters
draft all patterns
themselves according to
the specifics of each design.
Once the fabric pieces have
been cut they are handed on
to a team of makers who
begin construction ready for
the first costume fittings.
At the same time, the
supervisor shops for
hundreds of individual items
of clothing: everything from
suits to socks. Every
article of costume is
fitted on the actor to
determine the visual look
of the garment as well as
to check technical aspects.
Sometimes designs can change
considerably through the
rehearsals. Before any
costume or footwear goes
on stage it may need
breaking down: the process
of distressing a costume
to give it a worn and
authentic look. The dye
department also regularly
cover footwear with
specially made mud.
The technical rehearsal is
the first time that the actor
gets to wear the complete
costume and the designer
sees it under stage
lighting. This is a very
busy time as some costumes
may need alterations in
terms of design or fit, some
need extra breaking down and
sometimes unforeseen
difficulties arise as part
of the technical process.
Alistair McArthur,
Head of Costume
week 7

We start to run sections together. Pace is clarity of thought. If our

thinking is right, the pace of the play should be swift and deadly. As we
start to run sections, the five distinct days over which the play occurs
(allowing for the various time shifts) emerge with clarity. After one run,
Cicely Berry, shaking her head, says It is all so human.
We have explored the historicist perspective (is Polonius a portrait
of Lord Burleigh, Queen Elizabeths Chief Minister? Is Hamlet an
autobiographical portrait of the Earl of Oxford?). Weve argued about the
plays politics. Its an intensely dangerous world of hyper-surveillance,
in which Hamlet himself seems largely politically disinterested. Weve
delved into the psychoanalysis of poisoners, and rejected Freudian
analysis of the oedipal nature of the closet scene. But to bring the play
home to each of us, to allow it to touch our own lives, and to get even
closer to the iconic questions touching our own mortality that the play
poses, we have more work to do.
Next week we move from the security of our rehearsal room into
The Courtyard Theatre for the technical week. Suddenly there will be a
huge set, and lights, and sound effects, and costumes, and dressers and
wig girls, and the whole stage crew and props staff, and a band and music
cues, and flymen on hand for the automation, and the aerial work, and a
production photographer, and a massive auditorium to reach, and, by the
first preview on Thursday, a thousand people sitting in it. On Monday
morning it seems impossible to believe that we will ever get there!
The Production
The Production Manager (PM)
is involved in a production
from beginning to end,
supervising collaboration
between the creative and the
technical teams. Coordinating
all the physical aspects of a
production, such as scenery,
lighting, props, sound, costume
and special effects, involves
many departments and the PM
works in close collaboration
with all of these to realise
the creative vision of the
artistic team.
The life of a production begins
with a design brief, written
by the PM, which prescribes the
parameters of the production.
The designer then produces
a detailed scale model of
the set, which is assessed
for practicality, safety and
affordability by the PM and
construction departments. Once
in rehearsal, the PM chairs
a series of meetings attended
by the director, designers,
construction and show running
departments, where progress,
changes, rehearsal developments
and artistic requirements are
discussed. The PM also draws up
the production schedule, which
timetables the preparation and
installation of the show into
the theatre.

Then comes the hectic business

of fitting up a show: the
initial assembly on stage
of all the hardware needed
for a production. This is
followed by the technical and
dress rehearsals and then the
preview performances, all
coordinated by the PM. Even
when a production is safely up
and running and in the hands
of the stage manager, the
PM has a role in responding
to requests for maintenance
and repair, as the life of a
production is often measured
in months and sometimes years.
When this life is extended as
productions are transferred to
London, Newcastle or cities
around the world, the PM will
be involved in the process of
moving the show into its new
home and ensuring that the
original vision of the artistic
team is preserved.
Simon Ash, Production Manager
week 8

Stage Manag their team,
na ge r, to gether with ing of all
The Stage Ma e for the smooth runn
bl anything
is responsi hearsals. This can be
aspects of
re the cast to
ni si ng fo r members of ensuring that
from orga work, to
edigger at maintained
visit a grav qu ir ements are
d sa fe ty re
e Stage Ma nager also
health an l ro om . Th
in the rehe
arsa ll; this
th e da il y rehearsal ca to find out
schedules e director
ing with th following
entails meet are required for the
which actors ls as well as organi
he ar sa ac tors are
days re things that
th e ot he r e an d wi g fittings,
all as costum
r, su ch lls, fight
needed fo arsals, dial
ect ca
me nt re he flyin g re hearsals.
es s in te rv iews and
calls, pr age Manager
in ro le s of the St the
One of the
ma ansition of
en su re th e smooth tr in to th e
is to room
e rehearsal hearsal
technical re n that
play from th ru n the
e team rtai
theatre. Th , making ce
a ve ry ti ght schedule the production
to of
cal aspect tion are
every techni ng, sound and automa
ti show.
such as ligh rrectly to create the
ed co
introduc production
ma in ta in ing the high by press
As well as achieved
need to be e for
values that am are also responsibl y.
night, the
te ting co an mp
st or al ca re of the ac
the pa
Stage Manage
The Sound Design
Having received the script, I
generally look through and mark
obvious points where a sound
effect might be used and what
it might be. Shakespeare is
very good at letting you know
whats required, and if youre
not too sure, just read on a
little and he usually gives up
the reason.
The main answers come from
the director describing the
influences, style and period
of the production, and from
engaging with each artistic
discipline. Some sound effects
will be the result of a
directors inspirational idea,
some from a direct request, say
for a bell striking twelve.
We try and record as many new
sound effects as we can, but
if all else fails the RSC has
a huge library of effects to
hand, both purchased and from
previous shows.
As rehearsals progress we
test out our ideas as we gain
more and more knowledge about
the production and how sound
and music will interface to
tell the story. All RSC music
is live; in this show the
musicians are high up behind
the mirror wall. When we get
to technical rehearsals the
band and the sound operator
join and we have at least one
microphone on each instrument;
they will be mixed live with
the sound effects, and balanced
against the actors voices for
each performance.
Jeremy Dunn, Sound Designer