The Courier-Mail


- FIONA PUR­DON Bell Shake­speare’s Ham­let will be show­ing at Toowoomba (The Em­pire Theatre) on Wed­nes­day Septem­ber 2; Rock­hamp­ton (Pil­beam Theatre) on Fri­day Septem­ber 4; Mackay (En­ter­tain­ment and Con­ven­tion Cen­tre) on Septem­ber 7; Townsville (River­way Arts

GOLD Coast-raised ac­tor Josh McConville has fi­nally ful­filled the prophecy of a Year 11 drama teacher, who pre­dicted that one day the ac­tor would per­form Ham­let pro­fes­sion­ally.

McConville was hand­picked by re­spected di­rec­tor Damien Ryan to por­tray Ham­let in Bell Shake­speare’s na­tional tour of the iconic play, which comes to Queens­land this week.

Per­form­ing it has brought back mem­o­ries of his first en­counter with Ham­let. That was when he per­formed the fa­mous scene in act three, when Ham­let’s mother Gertrude ac­cuses her son of of­fend­ing his new step­fa­ther Claudius.

McConville, 29, ran the scene for a drama exam in front of the class at Saint Stephen’s Col­lege, Coomera, in 2002. “I re­mem­ber my drama teacher Sam Holmes telling me that I would have to per­form that part pro­fes­sion­ally one day, and that thought has al­ways stuck with me,’’ McConville says.

“At the time I was a bit in­dif­fer­ent to Ham­let, I wasn’t re­ally old enough to un­der­stand the ins and outs and the in­tri­ca­cies and emo­tions.’’

This time around McConville has en­joyed get­ting stuck into the play and learn­ing about his char­ac­ter, in­clud­ing five weeks of re­search for the big­gest role of his theatre ca­reer.

“In the past week I locked my­self in my room and spoke to no one and got out my old Olde English dic­tionary and re­ally stud­ied the play,’’ he says.

“Ham­let re­quires a lot of prepa­ra­tion and skill be­cause you need to un­der­stand what you are say­ing ... so then you can con­vince the au­di­ence and that makes for good theatre.’’

Ham­let is set at the royal court of the newly crowned King Claudius. Prince Ham­let is deeply de­pressed by the sud­den death of the pre­vi­ous monarch, his fa­ther, and the hasty re­mar­riage of his mother, Queen Gertrude, to his un­cle Claudius.

The ghost of his fa­ther ap­pears to Ham­let in­form­ing him that he was mur­dered by Claudius, and call­ing upon him to avenge his death. Ham­let is paral­ysed by in­ac­tion, un­sure whether to fol­low his duty to his fa­ther.

This Bell Shake­speare pro­duc­tion is set in a con­tem­po­rary Den­mark, with Cold War over­tones.

McConville says he did not have any pre­con­ceived ideas of play­ing the role but ac­knowl­edges it was harder than he ex­pected, es­pe­cially with the amount of lines he has to learn.

“I’ve tried to make the char­ac­ter my own,’’ he says.

“I’m look­ing at Ham­let as a guy in deep grief, he has just lost his fa­ther and I be­lieve the most im­por­tant char­ac­ter in the play is the ghost of his fa­ther. I think what it would be like if I lost my dad and then, if I saw his ghost.”

McConville has learnt much from the ex­pe­ri­enced di­rec­tor, Ryan, who has al­ready staged sev­eral pro­duc­tions of Ham­let as well as per­form­ing the role him­self.

“I had never of­fi­cially met Damien un­til he cast me but he has an en­cy­clopaedic know- ledge of Ham­let and has given me a lot of great ad­vice,’’ he says.

“Ham­let is the only role that if you can pull it off as an ac­tor you can al­most do any­thing. When you are play­ing Ham­let you are re­ally naked on stage.’’

McConville is on a fourstate, two-ter­ri­tory tour of Ham­let and he will per­form the role more than 130 times in­clud­ing a six-week stint at the Syd­ney Opera House.

“I’m for­tu­nate that the whole cast is su­per friendly and all very pro­fes­sional and ex­pe­ri­enced,” he says.

“We are like a trav­el­ling troupe of ac­tors tak­ing Ham­let to places they might not usu­ally see a pro­fes­sional Shake­speare such as Toowoomba, Townsville and Mackay.’’

McConville was in his third year at NIDA when he was se­lected for an ensem­ble role in the Syd­ney Theatre Com­pany pro­duc­tion of Gal­lipoli in 2008. Since then he has be­come a Syd­ney Theatre Com­pany reg­u­lar, in­clud­ing star­ring with Cate Blanchett in Gross und Klein in 2011. He has al­ready been slated for four STC pro­duc­tions next year.

“While grow­ing up on the Gold Coast I never dreamt of per­form­ing at the Syd­ney Opera House,” he says.


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 ??  ?? IN­TENSE: Josh McConville and Matilda Ridg­way in Bell Shake­speare’s pro­duc­tion of Ham­let.
IN­TENSE: Josh McConville and Matilda Ridg­way in Bell Shake­speare’s pro­duc­tion of Ham­let.

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