Every actor should understand exactly what they are saying in order to make the most of their role. For the first two to three weeks of the rehearsal process Gregory Doran gave the actors three key rules when they were reading the play: 1) That they don’t read their own part 2) That they can’t comment on their own part 3) That they can only use information that they already know and can’t see ahead in the play. These rules enable the actors to hear their part and discover new things from the rest of the cast. Each scene of the play was done twice; first, Greg asked the actors to read the Shakespearean text aloud, and then they discuss the meaning of the words and any misunderstandings, after this the actors paraphrased the scene in their own words to see if they discovered anything new.
Edward Bennett (Laertes), and Mariah Gale (Ophelia) worked from this basis and made further decisions about the relationships between the characters. They decided that the words of advice Polonius gives are so familiar that the children know what’s coming. Watch the scene and compare it to how you felt about the characters.
The above clip is for use in an activity found in the Hamlet Teachers’ Guide. [download the full PDF of the guide]