OLIVER Crawford had always been apprehensive about playing Hamlet.
“It was the first Shakespeare production I ever saw and I have always been really scared about picking him for auditions,” Oliver, 17, said.
“It is such a great piece of writing and I wanted to do it absolutely right, so I always avoided it.”
When he performed Hamlet's First Soliloquy in front of Bell Shakespeare’s teaching artists and touring actors he feared the worst. “I didn’t get too much sleep beforehand, but got up and had a crack,” he said.
“I remembered reading that there was no one way to play the role and so threw a lot of anger and sadness at it. I thought ‘Well that was awful’ – but it turns out it wasn’t.”
Oliver is one of three students from across the country to receive a 2018 John Bell Scholarship.
He will spend a week at the company’s Sydney headquarters in January, take acting masterclasses and backstage tours and observe rehearsals of the company’s first production of the year, The Miser.
Oliver and the other recipients – Rhyan Lee from Darwin and Ebony Eastman from South Yunderup – will also stage a performance of a Shakespeare monologue for the The Miser cast and receive feedback and career advice.
“I didn’t believe it for a second and was a bit flustered, but now the shock has settled in I see it as a huge honour,” he said.
“Working with [Maitland-born] John Bell is something I could only dream of beforehand.”
Oliver hadn’t considered acting until he was tapped on the shoulder to join his school play, aged nine.
“I was in year three and they said to me ‘You like to talk, you’d be good at this’.”
He was involved for seven years with the Catholic Schools Office’s performing arts program Aspire – which “taught me everything I know” and cast him in the lead role this year – and started drama classes in year 10.
“I love having the ability to tell a story and connect with people,” he said.
“Bringing wonderful scripts to life is an honour.”
Oliver is the second St Francis Xavier’s College Hamilton student to receive the scholarship since it started in 2016. Joel Loum Okumu received one of the three inaugural scholarships.
Oliver is up for a CONDA on Saturday in the Excellence by a Male Actor Under 18 category.
“There’s a lot of talent in that category, so it’s anyone’s game,” he said.
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