Ben Thompson, an actor with The Factory, provides his thoughts about performing in the current production of Hamlet at Blackwell’s Bookshop . . .
‘I first saw Hamlet at Wilton’s Music Hall about 4 years ago and I was struck by how vibrant it was and how a play I thought I knew quite well could sound so fresh to my ears. Little did I think when I watched that performance that I’d find myself in the midst of all the madness, the nerves, the excitement, the immense amount of line learning and verse grappling several years later. It’s great to be a part of this ongoing project as it comes up against a new set of challenges. In the past each performance has been in a different venue and quite often a space in which the relationship between the audience and the actors is a fluid one. Here at Blackwell’s the seating is fixed and so is pretty much all of the performance space. However this only serves to give us something else to play against.
Part of The Factory’s work on Hamlet in performance is to set ourselves certain ‘obstacles’ which stop the actor getting stuck in habits and rhythms as well as hopefully showing parts of the text and story in a new light. Examples of these might be something as simple as not being allowed to touch the ground or perhaps having two actors play the same role at the same time; one speaks the lines from without the performance space while the other physically responds to what happens within it. The use of the audience’s objects as essential props within the play is yet another way of keeping it fresh for us.
Added to the mix here in Oxford is the fact that we are running Hamlet for three weeks; the longest stretch we’ve done to date so the task will be to keep the freshness and playfulness that The Factory’s work is synonymous with. In the end though all we have is the audience and the text which, at times, in itself can be a huge mountain to climb; but when (or perhaps if!) you reach the top the view’s amazing.’
Ben will be performing with The Factory in ‘Hamlet’ and ‘The Odyssey’.
‘Hamlet’ runs until Saturday 24th March.
‘The Odyssey’ runs from Thursday 29th March to Saturday 28th April.
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