Hamlet adaptation at the Maltings, St Albans

Stephen Cunningham Stephen Cunningham

Sunday, January 26, 2014
10:04 AM

Actor and director Stephen Cunningham has his hands full right now.

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Having adapted Shakespeare’s Hamlet for Peppermint Muse Theatre Company, he is also directing, composing music, moving house and is due to become a father at the end of the production’s run at the Maltings Arts Theatre in St Albans next month.

Well-known locally as an actor and director, Stephen is also a musician and has always held ambitions to be a writer.

He said: “I never intended to be on the stage and yet I’ve spent many years playing some of the most brilliant parts for local theatre companies.

“Being executive director of Peppermint Muse, I’ve finally had the opportunity to focus on writing. I mentioned the idea of adapting Hamlet a couple of years ago and it’s hard to believe that we’re now in the final stages of rehearsal.”

The adaptation is entitled, Hold Off The Earth, a phrase that Laertes speaks at his sister Ophelia’s funeral. Stephen wanted to be clear that whilst the lines are Shakespeare’s, this is a re-imagining of Hamlet and his interpretation of the story.

He explained: “I started with an idea that Hamlet would be both a man and a woman. I also researched all the versions of the text and found some fascinating differences, particularly in the lesser known First Quarto of 1603.

“Audiences often shy away from sitting through over three hours of Shakespeare and I felt strongly that we could make the play more accessible and engaging by keeping the running time to two hours and using a small cast.”

A trailer for Hold Off The Earth, previewing some of Stephen’s music, can be seen at www.peppermintmuse.co.uk and the production will play at the Maltings Arts Theatre across two weeks; Thursday, February 6, to Saturday, February 8, and Thursday, February 13 to Saturday, February 15. Performances start at 8pm and tckets are £12.50 from www.ticketsource.co.uk/ovo.

School parties of 10 or more are offered a special £8 ticket price (with one teacher going for free for every 10 tickets) which can be arranged directly with the theatre manager, Liz Widdowson, by calling 07807 521436.

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