Για πρώτη φορά στα χρονικά των παραστάσεων του Άμλετ, ο ηθοποιός Ντέιβιντ Τέναντ, που ερμηνεύει το σαιξπηρικό ήρωα, κρατάει ένα αληθινό κρανίο. Είναι το κρανίο του πιανίστα Αντρέ Τσαϊκόφσκι, ο οποίος το προσέφερε με σημείωμα πριν από τον θάνατό του στη Ρόγιαλ Σαίξπηρ Κόμπανι για «χρήση σε θεατρική παράσταση». Έως τώρα, όμως, χρησιμοποιούνταν μόνο στις πρόβες, γιατί κανένας ηθοποιός δεν ένιωθε άνετα να το κρατάει μπροστά σε κοινό.
- guardian.co.uk, Sunday November 23 2008 00.01 GMT
- The Observer, Sunday November 23 2008
- Article history
‘Alas, poor Yorick,’ laments Hamlet, holding up the skull of the King’s late jester. The gravedigger scene in the hit production of Hamlet starring David Tennant can claim unprecedented realism. For each night Tennant is holding aloft a genuine skull.
The extra cast member is André Tchaikowsky, a Polish concert pianist and composer who, after his death from cancer in 1982, bequeathed his skull to the Royal Shakespeare Company in the hope of achieving his acting dream. The skull sat in a box in the props department, virtually untouched for 25 years, until director Greg Doran retrieved it for its stage debut.
Tchaikowsky’s posthumous performance, which it is safe to assume makes up in consistency what it lacks in expressiveness, was kept secret when the show opened in Stratford-upon-Avon, where there was already massive hype around Doctor Who star Tennant.
Tchaikowsky emigrated from Poland to Oxford in 1939, when he was four, and was a frequent visitor to Stratford. He died at the age of 46 and left a will requesting that his organs be used for medical purposes, ‘with the exception of my skull, which shall be offered by the institution receiving my body to the Royal Shakespeare Company for use in theatrical performance’.
The Home Office decided the bequest was not illegal and the RSC could accept the gift. The company put the skull outdoors for a few months so the sunlight would dry it out completely. Actor Mark Rylance spent a month rehearsing with the skull when he played Hamlet in 1989, but ‘eventually, squeamishness about the rough handling of real human remains seems to have triumphed’.
Seventeen years later, however, Doran decided to take the plunge. ‘It was sort of a little shock tactic… though, of course, to some extent that wears off and it’s just André, in his box,’ he said.
- guardian.co.uk, Wednesday November 26 2008 00.01 GMT
- The Guardian, Wednesday November 26 2008
- Article history
William Shakespeare is losing favour in schools, with half of teachers cancelling courses with the Royal Shakespeare Company since Sats for 14-year-olds in English and maths were scrapped.
The RSC said up to 50% of teachers have dropped out of the training courses it runs to aid the teaching of Shakespeare to teenagers since ministers abolished the national curriculum tests, which included a section on the playwright, last month.
Jacqui O’Hanlon, the RSC’s director of education, said: «School managers will not release teachers for a day’s training because Shakespeare is no longer seen as a priority. If that’s the message being given to teachers and the message pervading schools, what impact is that going to have on the wider entitlement young people have to engage with Shakespeare?»
The worst-case scenario would see students exposed to just one play – probably Romeo and Juliet – during their whole secondary career, she warned. In a memo to the Commons schools committee, the RSC said 40 to 50% of teachers booked on their training courses had cancelled.
Barry Sheerman MP, the committee chairman who raised the issue at a hearing this week, said: «It’s quite chilling if schools don’t want students to go and see Shakespeare if it’s not examined.» Government edicts on the curriculum were reminiscent of «Soviet Russia» and teachers were «too frightened» to complain in case they weren’t promoted, he said.
«Most teachers are terrified to go to bed at night without reading the latest missive. The government controls the curriculum even if it’s by manipulation, not direction.»
The schools minister, Jim Knight, promised to look into the shunning of Shakespeare. «If something is part of a statutory test it focuses minds and drives behaviour,» he told the committee on Monday. «I’m disappointed schools have taken this line and we need to do more research to find out why.» Knight insisted that schools had flexibility over the curriculum they taught.
But he said a generation of teachers were not used to having the extra flexibility introduced into the secondary curriculum this year and needed to learn from older teachers. He said the government was unashamed about the priority it has placed on English and maths.
Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union, said schools felt under more pressure since key stage three tests were scrapped. «The government expected to release pressure on schools but we are hearing from teachers that it is just as much or intensifying.»