Our Young Critics group consist of nine young people who will watch a series of productions both here at the Almeida and across other London venues. They meet fortnightly to discuss their responses to the shows and are then asked to create a review of differing forms.
Ellie-Mae Turner-Wood, 17, describes her response to Robert Icke’s production.
When I hear the name Shakespeare, I automatically flashback to my secondary school English lessons where I would read a scene from one of his many plays, try to pretend I understood it, translate it to the 'Shakespeare for Dummies' version and relate it to a theme. Job done - move on to the next scene. I admit I despised this repetitive routine and, for that reason, I became one of the many young people who would groan, "Shakespeare is boring - I don't get it." I was still this person just a year ago, studying Richard III in the confining walls of my classroom, wishing I enjoyed this literary legend. However, I feel proud to tell you now that I think I have finally found my love for William.
I took my seat at the Almeida Theatre (second row - I was ecstatic) only knowing two things about Hamlet. Firstly, it was a about a guy named Hamlet and two, everyone thought he was mad. I was apprehensive about the nearly four hours I was set to endure, watching a play that I knew nothing about. I had never studied Hamlet; I didn't know the plot, the relationships between the characters (and there are a lot in this play) and, most of all, I was certain I wasn't going to understand a word they were saying.
I'm pleased to announce that my previous uncertainties were proven false by the magnificent, frightening and tear-jerking adaptation by Robert Icke. Firstly, I believe that nowadays there is no other option than to place a Shakespeare play into a modern environment. The staging of Hamlet was sleek, simplistic and extremely effective. The glass panels that, at times, separated Hamlet from his now disjointed family, cleverly messed with my emotions. One moment we were the audience, the public, watching a royal wedding, becoming lost in the captivating romance of Gertrude (Juliet Stevenson) and Claudius (Angus Wright). Then, through his angered soliloquies, we watched through the glass as Hamlet (Andrew Scott), a fatherless boy watching his mother swiftly move forward with her life.
As a Hamlet newbie I had nothing to compare Andrew Scott's performance to; there wasn't a preconceived image of Hamlet in my mind. For me, Andrew Scott was Hamlet and in the moments where his emotions and thoughts were exposed to the audience, I was hypnotised. His performance of a grieving human was exquisite and intricate. When he was confused, I was confused. When he was angry, I was angry but most importantly, when he was grieving, I was grieving.
This adaptation of Hamlet proved to me why Shakespeare is as important now as he was over four hundred years ago. Universally, we know how it feels to lose and to love and these themes of love, grief and death transcend Shakespearian England. In the hours I spent watching Andrew Scott mould Hamlet into a terrifyingly haunted and broken man, I started to connect with him in ways I didn't know I could. As a literary lover, I wanted to see these words I connected to on a page. I wanted to read the play. I didn't want to formally study it and grow bored of it. I wanted to read the words and find the meaning of them that I found in the production.
For many people, seeing Shakespeare is about watching several interpretations of a story they already know. However, when I saw Hamlet, it was about connecting to a story I didn't know. I was enchanted by the dark storytelling of the Hamlet cast and, for this reason, the Almeida's production of Hamlet was victorious in connecting the mind and emotions of a seventeen year-old to a four hundred year-old play. I wish that every teenager currently groaning "Shakespeare is boring - I don't get it.", could experience the revelations about the importance of Shakespeare that were so successfully presented by this production.
Find out more about our Young Critics programme at almeida.co.uk/young-critics
For more about our Participation programme and how to get involved visit almeida.co.uk/participate