Tuesday, 9 September 2008

The Factory's Hamlet, The Globe, 6 Sep 2008

(Note: This was the first time I had seen a play in the Globe after the "As You Like It" production of more than a decade ago -yes, the one with David Tennant, funnily enough- when I was a wee teenage who couldn't speak two words of English but fell in love with Mister Shake-scene anyway. So coming back here to see "Hamlet" was bound to be an emotional experience)

Or not so emotional. Thank God for the Factory and its will to put the silliness back in Will. Posters and t-shirts were bought, cruel jokes about Josh Harnett were made, night buses from St. Paul's were chased at four in the morning, and there was a stuffed deer on stage. In short: a blast of a night out.

Such a mirth-inducing anniversary for The Factory!

Having the performance start at midnight set the tone for the night: there was a very healthy and childish air of mischief from the start. Sometimes we get too caught up in the medium's complications and we forget what theatre is about: a bunch of guys putting on a play and a bunch of people who go see them and have a good time. And a good time we did have. Even if it sounds blasphemous to behold "Hamlet" as a comedy, we welcomed all the silliness and cheap laughs of the long night.

The actors of the Factory always manage to remind us that yes, acting Shakespeare is hard but it's also a lot of fun. Their exercises do not only refresh the text but also the audience's preconceptions about how it should be played. The obstructions are there not because of a whim, they are there to remind both the actors and the audience that the text should always be a living thing, and in the case of "Hamlet" -the most complex, gorgeous, infuriating, rich, confusing text in western literature- the text welcomes all these variations, for its so flexible that it survives radical interpretation stronger than before.

Love the summary of the night's obstructions in the Factory's Wiki thread by one of the actors:

Well walking out in front of a baying crowd at the Globe was An Event in itself – Obstruction No 1 of the week was All That Love.

I Love
II One person on the stage level at a time (including that bloody extension)
III Voices on the balcony and bodies (those who won the toss) on the stage.
IV Doubling (or tripling or quadrupling) of characters a choix.
V John Boden played music of HIS choice – characters to move but not speak to the music, then freeze and speak when the music stopped.

The first obstruction pervaded the entire show. How lovely. Also dangerous – at times it was raining props. TC asked that the props in Act One come from the balconies not the more accessible yard… so they came – largely unsolicited and without warning.
Of the props thrown to the stage the most celebrated one was the stuffed deer that the actors playing Claudius and Polonius used to hide behind and spy on Hamlet. It made us think what a great prop it would make in a performance of "Love's Labour Lost" when the Prince declares he has been hiding behind "this bush". It prompted our only intellectual moment of the night, thinking how all the Shakespeare plays are somehow connected even via stuffed deers.

All the actors were, needless to say, exceptional. This was our second foray into The Factory adventures (having seen the Riverside Studios "Hamlet" in the spring) and we can see how capable and committed (and okay, brave) these actors are. We were specially enthused by the guy who played Claudius and the one who lost the toss with him but got to play the part in the Voices obstruction and the Doubling obstruction. This very last obstruction seemed like the most fun to us, with different versions of the character interacting with each other, almost Python-esque in spirit.

The party -oh, it was a party- ended very late and the experience of walking through the streets of London at night was in itself, very theatrical, specially crossing the Millenium Bridge in the darkness.

From the Factory "official rulebook":
17. Always offer the most beautiful versions of ourselves.
Some nights it's hard being skeptical with theatre.

1 comment:

London Traveller said...

Love your review of the Factory's Hamlet - I loved it as well and am only disappointed that I didn't see more of their performances. Did you know that they are giving the Factory treatment to Chekov's Seagull? The show is sold out but you can win tickets for Sunday 10 May here: http://www.spoonfed.co.uk/spooners/competition-394/win-a-pair-of-tickets-to-the-seagull-1103/

If you think your readers might be interested, it would be awesome if you could pass on the info. Cheers!