HUNTER School of the Performing Arts is giving theatre-goers a chance to take a very different and amusing look at two Shakespeare plays this week with its staging of English playwright Tom Stoppard’s Dogg’s Hamlet, Cahoot’s Macbeth.
The first half, Dogg’s Hamlet, has high school acting students rehearsing Hamlet while talking in a different form of English named after their very strict headmaster who developed the language.
It uses existing words in very different ways, with the opening having children and builders in the school grounds speaking Dogg, and their voices and movements showing watchers what they mean.
One schoolboy, for example, says “Brick” as he motions to another one to throw him a football.
And the second half, Cahoot’s Macbeth, has a police inspector coming to a rehearsal of Macbeth and telling the actors that Shakespeare is a subversive writer.
Stoppard used the name Cahoot as a tribute to Czechoslovakian writer Pavel Kohout, one of many writers and actors banned from involvement in theatre in the late 1960s by the Communist government. Cahoot is a censored writer in the play.
Dogg’s Hamlet, Cahoot’s Macbeth has its final performances at a HSPA venue on Saturday at 6.30pm.
It is being staged in the school’s large new performing arts precinct that adjoins its Hunter Theatre. The building includes fully equipped rehearsal spaces for drama and dance students, a large main hall that has a raised stage behind a floor that can be used for basketball and other sport activities, and a gym.
Drama teacher Jane McDavitt, the play’s director, has set each of the two acts in adjoining but different rehearsal rooms, with the audience moving between them at interval.
Dogg’s Hamlet is in a more open space, reflecting the story’s setting in a school yard. And Cahoot’s Macbeth is in a more intimate venue, with the audience members around the actors rehearsing Hamlet.
The production features 19 drama students from years 10 to 12. Only one of the actors, Magnus Gamble, is in both halves.
He plays Easy, a delivery man puzzled in Dogg’s Hamlet by the language the builders are using. In Cahoot’s Macbeth, he is the only one that uses Dogg.