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Talking to Efé Agwele who plays Rosencrantz in Hamlet, reimagined for young audiences

Talking to Efé Agwele who plays Rosencrantz in Hamlet, reimagined for young audiences

Efé Agwele is an English actress currently on stage at the National Theatre in Hamlet which ends on the 6th April.

A graduate of Mountview her other productions include: Anthem Live! at the Almeida; Doctor Who: Time Fracture for Immersive Everywhere; Pictland at the Arcola; and Rock’N’Roll Girls for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Efé Agwele as Rosencrantz

ALT: What do you like about being on stage?

The fantastic thing about being on stage that you don’t get with any other medium of acting is the direct connection to the audience. The liveness of the moment and the personal-ness you get actor to audience experiencing this story together.

ALT: What was your first professional acting job?

My first professional acting job was Doctor Who: Time Fracture the Immersive West End show.

ALT: What do you like about Shakespeare’s work?

Shakespeare language and poetry has allowed the development of the English language.

ALT: How do you prepare for a role?

When preparing for a role, I usually try to breakdown who the character is to themselves, to the other people in the story and how they serve the story. This helps me ground the character in reality for myself. In real life we are not just ourselves, what we say and what we do. We are individuals in relation to other people and the world, so I try and recreate that foundation of a person, and go from there.

ALT: Who is your character, what is their motivation and what are the challenges/joys to the role?

My character is Rosencrantz who is typically a clown. One of the great parts of the rehearsal process was being able to collaborate with the director and other actors to create additional details for the character. This meant I was able to create real life motivations for wacky behaviour. For example: my Rosencrantz wants to be an actor, so during the play-within-a-play when Hamlet asks for a new character, I have a clear motivation for offering myself. Some of the challenges with a part like this is a) not creating such a patronisingly silly character that they become annoying b) making sure the humour always serves the story & isn’t just gratuitously taking away from the action of the play.

ALT: What did you learn from the pandemic if there was a lesson to be learned?

The pandemic for me was a time for reflection and a time for planning. My family all work in essential services: government & NHS, which meant the pandemic was not a risk free time for us. I learnt to always take time for the people I love, even more so than before. From the pandemic, I learnt there is ALWAYS time.

ALT: What is it like working with younger audiences?

Brilliant! They are the most active and participatory audience. I don’t believe in silent theatres, I’m not sure if it’s because of the Nigerian in me who likes to talk all the time. However, one of the beauties of younger audiences is that they haven’t been told that theatre is meant to be experienced in silence so we get to hear and feel their actual feelings about the show immediately.

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ALT: What do you like about Hamlet?

Hamlet ultimately is a family story, and when you strip away the royalness and Denmarkness, that’s something everyone can relate to.

ALT: What is it like working with director Tinuke Craig?

Very humbling! Being able to work with a black female director who so calmly and expertly can shape a production & bring out the best in everyone, was such a blessing. I’ve truly learnt so much.

ALT: What can an audience take from this production?

From this production I hope audiences understand children’s theatre does not mean silly – kids are smarter than we think & that morality is never black & white. During our primary school Q&A’s what’s fascinating is the split the children have in deciding who the villain of the story is: either Claudius or Hamlet because they recognise neither one of them is wholly good or wholly bad.

ALT: What next for you?

After this I’m working on a part-devised adaptation of the Greek Play Iphigenia in Aulis alongside Che Walker & the Collage Voices ensemble. MORE