Swapping Street for Shakespeare

SOAPS and Shakespeare have a lot in common – both designed to entertain the masses of their era filled with highly dramatic plots and characters.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 8th April 2011, 11:42 am

So former Coronation Street star Becky Hindley feels right at home playing Gertrude in Northern Broadsides new production of Hamlet, which comes to West Yorkshire Playhouse next week.

However Becky, who played Charlotte Hoyle in Coronation Street, said there were many differences between the characters.

“Charlotte was a bunny boiler, but Gertrude is much more focused and together,” she said.

“Charlotte made her own destiny, she had a bit more power over her situation than Gertrude did. What happens to Gertrude is really sad, she has no control over events, and I hope the audiences feel that with her.”

Northern Broadsides sets its production in 1949, casting Hamlet (Nicholas Shaw) as the original angry young man – a rebel with a cause – teetering on the brink of madness in an uncertain post-war world.

Becky said: “In a way it doesn’t matter when Hamlet is set. The reason this production is set post-war is it points to the McCarthy trials in America, there’s lots of suspicion, lots of plotting and no-one trusts anybody.

“As far as Hamlet is concerned it’s a time time of big change, and this production embraces it.

“It also means we’ve got some really great music, loads of 40s swing, which is fabulous, and it brings everything to life to hear that throughout the play.”

Director Conrad Nelson also pointed to the paranoia of the post-war era in the production.

He said: “In Britain Burgess and Maclean are preparing to defect, it’s a time of spies, double agents and political paranoia.

“Shakespeare’s young prince is a man compelled to work things out for himself. Betrayed by the older generation and overwhelmed by grief at the death of his father, the burden of bloody vengence he is forced to carry sits uneasily with his supremely rational nature.”

This is the second time Becky has worked with Northern Broadsides, after appearing in the title role of its 2007 production of Lisa’s Sex Strike and she’s happy to be back with the company.

“Northern Broadsides tells the story really simply, it’s not just about one person, it’s about the whole company. I’ve worked with the company before and I throughly enjoyed it and I’m happy to be working with them again, and to work with Conrad Nelson,” she said, “It’s been wonderful to get this opportunity to play a part like Gertrude. I like to think I’m a younger Gertrude, so I’ll get the chance again later, but yes, it’s been a joy.”

Becky is also full of praise for her leading man, Nicholas Shaw.

She said: “Nick is brilliant, he’s worked his arse off and deserves all the accolades he gets. He’s been fantastic to work with.

“Hamlet can have his tantrums and you and understand his quandary because he’s a younger Hamlet. When you get a Hamlet in his 30s or 40s you can think ‘get over yourself’, but in a younger Hamlet – Nick’s 26 – it makes sense and you sympathise. But he plays it so beautifully and has so much energy.”

Hamlet is at West Yorkshire Playhouse from April 19 to 30, tickets cost £16-£26, available from the box office at www.wyp.org.uk or 0113 213 7700.