After the show, the Actors from the London Stage sit in the seats of the Diana Chapman Alumnae Hall theater, Wellesley College. From left to right, Grace Andrews, Wendy Morgan, Madeleine Hyland, Peter Bray, and Ben Eagle. Photo by Audrey Anderson
By Audrey Anderson
Hometown Weekly Correspondent
Five actors with The Actors from the London Stage, currently on a tour throughout the United States, were in residence at Wellesley College from October 15–21. During the week, they led workshops with students from the college, and on October 18, 19, and 20, they performed an energetic, certainly tragic, and sometimes-comic “Hamlet” at the Diana Chapman Walsh Alumnae Hall.
The set was simple: a bare stage with basic chairs toward the back that were occupied by actors not in the current scene. The actors wore street clothes (jeans and shirts), and each character’s identity was expressed simply with a modern hat, jacket, handbag, or piece of fabric draped over the shoulder or hanging from a tiara.
Additionally, each actor played multiple roles of both genders, dazzling the audience with their skill in switching between roles with a complete change in accent, body language, and tone of voice. Sometimes a character was signified by only a hat or piece of fabric being held by another actor. When that character had a line, one of the actors playing a different character slipped into and out of the hat or fabric, sometimes within the same scene. This was done with such skill that it was not distracting after the audience got used to the technique.
In the role of Hamlet, Madeleine Hyland ranged from quiet contemplation to energetic, swirling movement around the stage. She sat on the edge of the stage for the “To be or not to be…” soliloquy, and delivered it softly, as though a subdued, depressed Hamlet were merely thinking out loud.
Peter Bray delivered a humorous, pedantic, and verbose Polonius, in a way that you can imagine the character was truly intended by the Bard. Peter also played a hilarious, simple grave digger who was a perfect contrast to the contemplative Hamlet.
Grace Andrews’ Ophelia was delicately mad and tragic. King Hamlet’s ghost was bellowing and otherworldly in the hands of Ben Eagle, and his portrayal of King Claudius, especially in the “My offense is rank…” soliloquy, was delivered with a strong voice fraught with hopelessness.
Lastly, Wendy Morgan masterfully revealed the awful self-realization of Queen Gertrude’s guilt, and also of her sorrow over losing Ophelia.
Individuals who have a chance to see a production by the Actors from the London Stage, should not miss it. Wellesley was fortunate to be included in their tour.
To learn more about the accomplished actors who comprise Actors from the London Stage and their production of “Hamlet,” visit https://baylinartists.com/actors-from-the-london-stage-hamlet/.