Produced and Performed by Susanna Hamnett
From London, England
About the Company
Denmark. 2am. A hotel room. Three weary travelers, an unexpected will and a production of Hamlet to rehearse before morning. Tragedy and humor blend in this new play about the challenges of family, forgiveness and Shakespeare.
Real-life family – Susanna Hamnett, Joshua MacGregor, and Lily MacGregor – play the bereaved family of the once-great actor, Henry Elder, who was billed to perform his career-defining solo Hamlet at the famous Elsinore Shakespeare Festival. But, as they discover, Henry Elder is determined not to let anything as inconvenient as death prevent him from being there. With Shakespeare’s Hamlet as the pivot around which the family’s story revolves, the play is by turns absurd and poignant.
Written and performed by award-winning actor Susanna Hamnett, along with her son and daughter, Joshua and Lily MacGregor, this piece will premiere at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this August. It is an award winner of the Carol Tambor Incentive Award, chosen by the Carol Tambor Theatrical Foundation to encourage new writing and live performance at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. To learn more, please read this article.
“[Susanna is a] virtuosic performer with a touch of the endearing goofball” - Charles Isherwood, The New York Times
Best for: Grades 8th+ (13 years+)
Audience Size: Small & Medium Venues
(up to 400 seats depending on venue sight lines)
NEARLY LEAR highlights trailer
HOTEL ELSINORE trailer coming soon!
Fine Arts: Theater, Music, Production Design
Language Arts: Shakespeare, Characters, Adaptation
Emotional/Social Learning Development: Self-Awareness, Relationship Skills, Responsible Decision-Making, Social Awareness, Leadership, Families, Loss and Grief
Outreach and Workshops
Susanna teaches workshops to students of all ages and levels, as well as to teachers and to members of the public. She works to create an atmosphere of fun, trust, and exploration, where participants feel safe and encouraged to take risks and make discoveries. Her classes invite playfulness and presence, with a focus on Shakespeare or Wit and Wordplay, although there are areas of overlap between them.
SHAKESPEARE (for teachers): an energetic experiential workshop for teachers, offering playful, dynamic ways for their students to connect imaginatively and physically with Shakespeare’s language and characters.
SHAKESPEARE (for students): an energetic and playful workshop inviting students to use impulse and imagination to make emotional connections with aspects of Shakespeares’s language and characters.
WIT & WORDPLAY: developing a facility to play around freely and joyfully with words helps build confidence and fluency in authentically expressing feelings and owning our own voices and right to speak. This fun and humour-filled work is based on the teaching of Merry Conway, and is taught with her permission.
Sensory Friendly Performances
This production may be available as a “sensory friendly” or “relaxed” performance if arranged with the company in advance and with specific direction as to what adjustments are necessary for your venue.
Minimum Technical Requirements
Load In Time: 3 – 4 hours
Crew Needs: 1 Lighting Technician for load in and show + 1 Sound Technician for load in only
Min. Stage Size: 20 – 25’ wide x 15’ feet deep
Sound Needs: PA System, Lav mic such as Countryman B3
Projection Needs: ability to connect the Company’s projector (at front of the stage) to the sound booth
Load Out Time: 1 hour
After creating the wildly successful Nearly Lear (praised by The New York Times as ‘a frisky, funny, tantalizing introduction to the life-long pleasures of Shakespeare’), which has toured internationally to audience and critical acclaim – including runs on Broadway, the Kennedy Center and the Sydney Opera House – award-winning actor Susanna Hamnett joins forces with her son and daughter – actor/writer Joshua MacGregor and visual artist/dancer Lily MacGregor, to bring her unique vision to another of Shakespeare’s masterpieces. Plant[UnLtd] is their new production company, dedicated to making work that can evolve and grow into the future, and fostering connection and conversation with audiences of all ages and backgrounds.
Written by: Susanna Hamnett (with adapted text from Shakespeare’s Hamlet).
Performed by: Susanna Hamnett, Joshua MacGregor, and Lily MacGregor
Directors: Susanna Hamnett and Joshua MacGregor
Stage Manager: Steve MacGregor
Production Assistant: Alberta Saunders
Lighting Design: Daisy Grindrod
With Voice Over by: Alan Williams
"Hotel Elsinore" is Winner of the Carol Tambor Incentive Award, chosen by the Carol Tambor Theatrical Foundation to encourage new writing and live performance at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. To learn more, please read this article.
Critical Acclaim for Susanna's previous work "Nearly Lear":
“It’s a frisky, funny, vaudevillian…tantalizing introduction to the lifelong pleasures of Shakespeare… An energetic, virtuosic performer with a touch of the endearing goofball… Leaping from character to character — a slightly stiff, self-important Lear; a simpering Regan; a snooty Goneril; a sincere Cordelia — she manages to give each character a distinct voice (the varied accents are impeccable), and she keeps the story in clear focus… the most enjoyable — O.K., maybe the only enjoyable — example of audience participation I’ve ever witnessed..
But Ms. Hamnett does not fail to honor the ultimate darkness of the play’s vision… I found myself eyeing that tissue box forlornly once or twice.” -Charles Isherwood, New York Times. (January 10th, 2011)
“Everyone interested in the theatre and drama should have been at the Aberdeen Arts Centre last night, there should have been queues up and down King Street. Such is the mighty theatrical force that is Susanna Hamnett and her one-woman version of Shakespeare’s King Lear – Nearly Lear (created with and directed by Edith Tankus)… Hamnett is a seriously gifted actress… skilled in Shakespeare, clown, vaudeville and storytelling… Retold through the eyes of court jester, Noreen, played with razor-sharp hypertension by Hamnett, the tale unfolds at gunfire velocity with more wit, mischief and sheer playfulness than you can legally pack into 80 minutes of live theatre…
Every character is vividly etched and Hamnett plays them all with dazzling verve…bringing Shakespeare to life with a vibrancy (the audience) will never forget.” -Roddy Phillips, Aberdeen Press and Journal. (October 27th, 2010)
“Nearly Lear…is played to perfection by the gifted Susanna Hamnett… Although the play does touch on much of the sadness of the story, it is really the story of Noreen herself that is most captivating…both approachable and frighteningly vulnerable…a truly complex character…
Fast paced and exciting… Hamnett is the real powerhouse of the play. She portrays at least six different characters effortlessly, never missing a beat or ceasing to explode with seemingly boundless energy. Her performance and the spot-on directorial skills of Edith Tankus create a character and a performance that viewers will not soon forget.” -Susie Potter, Triangle Arts and Entertainment. (September 29th, 2010)
“I am so inspired by your play I went to the library and got a book by Shakespeare. It was so amazing I cannot explain it. It was way beyond amazing. It was perfect!’ -Emelia, student, Dundas PS
"It is a tragedy, but you made it a tragedy with the right amount of sadness and much humour…The students were spellbound throughout. They were with you all the way. Well done! I hope that you can bring this wonderful experience before the hundreds of students who are in our schools and who will just eat up this classical work, be inspired to explore Shakespeare and themselves feel moved to tell stories in such a creative way." -Gerry Mabin, founder of The Mabin School
“My work is, I think, the confused love child of two quite different approaches to theatre: a traditional classical theatre training and theatrical clown. It is this tension between being over-earnest and serious, whilst longing for some riotous and mischievous foolery that seems to shape how I approach everything – performing, teaching and directing. Or maybe that’s just being British!”
Susanna Hamnett arrived at her acting career sideways – “rather like a crab” as director Christopher Morahan once observed, scrutinizing her resumé. Having graduated from Cambridge University in Russian and French she then she won scholarships to study acting at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, under the tutelage of renowned Shakespeare and Voice coach Patsy Rodenburg, and worked professionally in England and Europe, as well as a period at the Moscow Arts Theatre School.
Discovering theatrical clowning for the first time through the work of Russian clown, Slava Polunin, she set out to learn as much as possible about the art, and moved to Toronto to study with master clowns John Turner and Michael Kennard (of “Mump and Smoot”) with whom she trained and collaborated extensively. She then began to develop and direct clown-influenced shows herself, exploring and evolving an approach to marrying seemingly disparate disciplines - Shakespeare, clown, storytelling, dance, vaudeville, the serious and the mischievous.
It is this approach and curiosity that also drives her work as an artist-educator, and she has worked in Canada and the US with students of all ages and backgrounds, from university students to at-risk youth, to school children as young as six. She has been a part of Lincoln Center’s Aesthetic Education Program and in 2012 the Kennedy Center’s Theatre for Young Audiences department in Washington, DC commissioned her to work on a new solo script which she presented at New Visions New Voices the following year. In 2014 she was awarded the inaugural Colleen Porter Residency Award (IPAY), which took her to Australia and Tasmania.
Susanna is passionate about creating work that is inspiring, meaningful and entertaining for both young and adult audiences, and believes in the vital importance of intergenerational audience experiences. At present, she is living back in the UK and is creating a new performance with her two adult children.
Past North American Tours include:
Nearly Lear 2012-2017
For more information, please visit the company’s website: http://www.susannahamnett.com/