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CUP book

Ngaio Marsh's Hamlet: The 1943 production script

18 November 2023

Edited with an introduction by Polly Hoskins


August 2019
134pp, including 8pp illustrations, paperback
210 x 148mm
ISBN: 978-1-98-850313-4

Dame Ngaio Marsh (1895–1982), a distinguished University of Canterbury alumna, was one of the greatest crime writers of the twentieth century. Marsh was also a gifted Shakespearean director, establishing her reputation in 1943 with the Canterbury University Drama Society modern-dress production of Hamlet. Fast-paced, with a deftly-cut script, and featuring especially commissioned incidental music by Douglas Lilburn, Ngaio Marsh’s production of Hamlet was a hit with wartime audiences.

Ngaio Marsh's Hamlet book cover

Marsh’s 1943 Hamlet production typescript is reproduced here for the first time, together with Lilburn’s previously unpublished music and a selection of archival photographs. An introductory essay by Polly Hoskins examines the staging of the production and the wartime context in which the play was performed, offering broader reflection on Marsh’s compositional approach, and a note from Robert Hoskins introduces Lilburn’s music.

This edition makes the perfect starting point for enriching our understanding of Ngaio Marsh as a Shakespearean director and producer, and presents a fresh perspective on New Zealand’s theatre history.

Polly Hoskins is an MA student in English at the University of Canterbury and is President of the Drama Society. She was the recipient of the Howard McNaughton Prize in Cultural Studies (2016) and a UC Masters Scholarship (2019). This is her first book.

Robert Hoskins is a retired academic and has published on colonial balladry, eighteenth-century English music, New Zealand music, and Robert Louis Stevenson’s Pacific writings. He is series editor of the collected piano music of Douglas Lilburn.

Listen to Polly Hoskins being interviewed on Standing Room Only.

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