May 12, 2015

The play’s the thing—EXPLORING HAMLET 

A short lecture series exploring Hamlet as Elizabethan audiences would have experienced it, coincides with the Globe Theatre’s upcoming world tour of Shakespeare’s most famous play.

Local Shakespeare expert David Lawrence will present the lectures through the Victoria University Continuing Education programme. As well as being suitable for anyone attending the Globe-to-Globe performance of Hamlet in Wellington on 1 to 2 June, he says, it is also aimed at people interested in how Shakespeare’s plays work in performance, both in their original context and today.

“Over 400 years Hamlet has been altered beyond recognition,” says David. “This course looks at how it would have appeared to an Elizabethan audience in 1601 and considers the four centuries of philosophical and theatrical change that have happened since then.”

The lectures will be held on Saturday afternoons over three weeks. Sessions will consider the plot and characters, the socio-political context in which Hamlet was written, the play’s unusual publication history and rich performance history both on stage and screen, as well the things that influenced Shakespeare as he wrote the play.

“People doing the course will gain an appreciation of what to expect from the visiting production by Shakespeare’s Globe when the play comes to New Zealand, and there will be an opportunity for a post-mortem discussion of the play in the third session,” says David.

As to any doubts that Shakespeare actually penned the play, David puts them to rest. “The lead character is a variant of the name of Shakespeare’s own son Hamnet, and the play is written in the same year his father died—coincidence perhaps, but it seems too extreme a coincidence to me.”

David Lawrence is an award-winning theatre director and a Hunter Fellow of Victoria University of Wellington. In 2013, he was part of the International Actors’ Fellowship at Shakespeare’s Globe. He is the director of The Bacchanals, a Wellington theatre company he founded in 2000 to explore text-based theatre and redefine classic works. David has been directly involved in nine of Victoria’s Summer Shakespeare productions. He has been a member of the Summer Shakespeare Trust Board for the past five years, is currently co-chair and mentors directors of Summer Shakespeare productions.

‘Shakespeare’s Hamlet: Unpacking 400 years of cultural and historical baggage’ will be held over three Saturdays from 1 to 3pm, from 23 & 30 May and 6 June. To learn more, go to

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