Hamlet (My Experience)

16 May

As I walked into the Theatre I noticed somebody sitting centre stage. Their hoodie was pulled up over their face. They sat cross-legged and had their arms out stretched. Every now and again they would screw their hands into tiny balls and release them again.

The strange figure had a horseshoe-shape of chairs around them. I presumed other actors were going to come on and occupy these chairs, but nobody came. Eventually Festival director Matt Holland gave us a helpful hint: “You are supposed to sit in the chairs.” My Mum and I had heard there was audience participation, but I hadn’t even thought of being on stage so close to the performance. Someone had the right idea and was already up there, so I followed after, getting the best seat I could.

Emily Carding at Hamlet, photo © Fernando Bagué

Once we had settled down, the mysterious person flung off their hood and revealed to us that she was Hamlet. In character, she handed us scripts, giving a brief description of what the character was to do; there was Horatio, Ophelia, Gertrude, Polonius and Claudius.

It came down to the final script. I raised my hand. At first she thought I was asking a question, but I wanted a part. She gave me Laertes. My part was special. I was called up to front centre stage and we faced each other. She said I was to duel with her and we quickly rehearsed the sword fight. It was fun as I had never done this before. I returned to my seat and the show started.

Emily Carding as Hamlet, photo © Fernando Bagué

After a few scenes I walked to Ophelia. Claudius and I remonstrated with Ophelia not to marry Hamlet. We improvised what we were saying and I finished with, “how could you marry such a…a… creature?!” which a few people laughed at. After rereading my character’s description I realised this was a tad overboard.

Emily Carding as Hamlet, photo © Fernando Bagué
Hamlet (Emily Carding) contemplates killing Claudius as he prays

A few scenes later I performed a short speech about what mad Hamlet was doing and how I felt about the well-being of my sister. A couple more scenes went past and poor old Polonius was killed. Ophelia, after hearing Hamlet had slaughtered her father, ripped up her script and fell to the floor – which was her interpretation of committing suicide.

The death of Polonius.

At her funeral, the remaining characters walked on stage and sang Amazing Grace whilst mourning over Ophelia’s dead body. Next came the bit I was most looking forward to: the duel. I battled Hamlet and after the third blow to my side I fell down to the floor, dead. I stayed there for the remainder of the performance and could hear the rest of the cast dropping behind me like flies.

I heard clapping and returned to my seat to see Hamlet had vanished (mum told me later Hamlet had died from my poisoned duelling sword). We called her back on stage for her final bow but she wouldn’t come out. A ghostly voice rang out: “the note, read the note…” We laughed as Horatio stood up and read from a slip of paper that Hamlet had given her earlier. Hamlet came back on and took her final bow.

Hamlet as the ghost of his father, the murdered King.

Hamlet (An Experience) was a brief version of Shakespeare’s Hamlet and was performed mainly by Emily Carding as the main character. The show was hosted by Swindon Spring Festival and took place Tuesday 14th May 2019 at Swindon Arts Centre.

Words by Milo Davison (age 12). Photos © Fernando Bagué.

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