Robert Addie and Hamlet

A while ago Magdalena Sakowska from Addie's Faction (a Robert Addie website fan club) asked me to write something for the 5th anniversary of Robert addie's passing. At the time I could not think of what to write but then talked to Magdalena later and suggested writing something about the day before Rob's first play as a director opened which was Friday March 7th 2003. Yesterday I got a timely reminder from Magdalena that today was Rob's 50th Birthday.

© Stuart Allen

A friend of mine, Nicola Carter had asked me to photograph her production of 'Hamlet' she was producing and acting in after I had taken her actresses headshot photograph along with two of the other cast members a couple of weeks before. All I knew about the production at the time was what the play was going to be and the cast. Not until Nicky said after I had arrived at the theatre on the day 'oh, I will introduce you to the director' did I find out that it was Rob. It was also at this point that Nicky found out that all ready knew her director. It was a funny moment, 'yes Nicky, Rob and I know each other!'

I had set off early in the day to allow myself plenty of time as I knew it was quite a journey. Just as well as I had completely forgotten to put some spare coins in the car to pay for getting over the Severn Bridge and then needed to go driving around to find a shop to buy something so I would get some coins in my change! I then drove over the bridge, past the ruins of Tintern Abbey, which is always an amazing site to see and into the Forest of Dean to the Forest of Dean College Theatre. Now know as The Forest Theatre

What struck me as I walked through the doors of the theatre was the size of it. Much larger than I had expected for a one off performance at a theatre. In some ways much larger than even the members of Breath Theatre Company had expected as well. I don't know what show had been on before but they had taken the front rows of seats out to increase the stage size which was now vast! The problem was there was no time to put all the seats back so they had to use the stage as it was. It was split on two levels but they had to use huge blocks to pad the set out a bit, so now the play was split over 3 levels. The lighting rigs were so high up that they had a tower on wheels that you had to climb up to get to the lights to change the positions of them. Most theatres of this size have motorised lights which makes the job much quicker to do. It was a technical nightmare for Rob and the lighting guy to sort as even the smallest repositioning of a light was taking so long to do by the time you had been up and down the tower each time. At this point the play was nowhere near the stage of starting a technical or dress rehearsal. During this period some of the cast were back stage rehearsing scenes and running through the sword fights.

Louise Bowman
© Stuart Allen

Then what happens... well the skull (It’s Hamlet you remember) and the back up skull (yes the skull had a stand-in!) were just outside a doorway on the ground, as they had put some mud put on them to 'age' them a bit and were drying off but some youths decided to run off with them. I can remember Rob and I looking at each other and giving each other that 'can anything else go wrong' look. So some of the cast had to go running off to try and get the skulls back, which they succeeded in doing. In the end the dress rehearsal started but not with all the lighting changes yet in place. Those were sorted out before the play went on the next day. In the end it all came together and they had a very successful performance the next evening.

Left to right. Grant Nicolson, Nicky Carter and Murray Andrews
© Stuart Allen

Murray Andrews was playing 'Hamlet' in the play and Grant Nicholson was playing Claudius. Other members of the cast included Nicky Carter, Adrian Ross-Jones and Louise Bowman.

One thing I leanr't towards the end of last year is it looks like the Forest of Dean College Theatre is going to be closed down, possible this year. At the moment it is fully open though.

The actors headshot of Rob I think I had taken the year before literally outside his home in Cirencester. That of course was after a friend of ours and myself had managed to track Rob down. He had gone out in the morning playing golf and as it had been such a hot day had gone to the local pub afterwards, completely forgetting we were coming up to take his photos. One very interesting thing came out during the shoot and that was Rob at some point in the past, when I do not know has been a photographic assistant to a professional photographer. Who that photographer was I do not know. As Rob was use to having headshots taken in the past he knew exactly what to do and what he wanted straight away. After that I think it was back to the pub!