15-Minute Hamlet

Written by Tom Stoppard

Sunday 13th September 1998

Directed by Members of the Company

When Bench Theatre moved from its old premises (The Old Magistrates' Court in West Street) to the newly created Havant Arts Centre, East Street in 1977, its members were instrumental in the setting up of the new centre. The Old Town Hall Building in East Street was converted to a bespoke Arts Centre and celebrated it's opening in 1978. 20 years later, Bench Theatre were invited to contribute to the 20th Anniversary celebrations including a collaborative fund-raising performance, which included other local groups:
Hampshire Recorder Sinfonia, Dynamo Youth Theatre, Havant Light Opera and Ginger Dance Theatre.

AuthorTom Stoppard

Sir Tom Stoppard OBE (b 1937)

Born Tomas Straussler in Czechoslovakia, Stoppard grew up in Singapore and India during the Second World and moved to England in 1946 with his mother and stepfather (from whom he takes his surname). Having been educated in England he became a journalist and theatre critic for various newspapers in Bristol. He began writing plays for radio and television in 1964 and enjoyed his first major success with 'Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead' which premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 1966. It was immediately hailed as a modern dramatic masterpiece.

His plays for the National Theatre have included 'Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead', 'Jumpers', 'On the Razzle' and 'The Coast of Utopia'. He also translated a number of plays including those of Mrozek, Nestroy, Schnitzler and Havel, and was heavily influenced by the work of the Polish and Czech absurdists. In 1977, after visiting Russia with a member of Amnesty International, Stoppard became concerned with a number of human rights issues which have manifested themselves in his work. 'Professional Foul', a television play, was Stoppard's contribution to Amnesty International's declaration of 1977 as 'Prisoner of Conscience Year'.

In addition to his work for the stage, Stoppard has written a number of screenplays including 'The Human Factor', 'Empire of the Sun', and 'Billy Bathgate'. In 1999, he won the Best Screenplay Oscar for for 'Shakespeare in Love' which he co-authored with Marc Norman. To date he has also won two Tony Awards.

Stoppard was awarded the OBE in 1978, he was knighted in 1997 and awarded the Order of Merit in 2000. He has been married twice (for a time to doctor and TV presenter Miriam Stoppard), has four sons and he currently lives in London.

Play15-Minute Hamlet

'15-Minute Hamlet' is a comedic abridgement of William Shakespeare's 'Hamlet', written in 1979. The play condenses the original 'Hamlet', including all the best-known scenes, into approximately 13 minutes of on-stage action. This is followed by another even more drastically reduced performance of the play from beginning to end, lasting 2 minutes, bringing the total running time up to 15 minutes. The idea of such an abridgment was taken further by the Reduced Shakepeare Comapny to their highly successful productions of the 'Complete Works of Shakespeare' in 90 minutes in the 1990s.

Production Information

20th Anniversary ticket

This one-act play was staged at Havant Arts Centre, Bench Theatre's home since 1977 as part of the centre's 20th Anniversary celebration fund-raising production.


Members of Bench Theatre CompanyAndrew Caple
Alice Corrigan
Tom Kenyon
David Penrose
Ruth Prior
Mark Wakeman


Directed by Members of the Company