Hamlet – An Insider’s View

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.

Box Office: 01865 766266

Hamlet – days until opening night!



Last year, Creation Theatre’s Doctor Faustus, staged in the world-famous Norrington Room here at Blackwell’s in Oxford, wowed audiences with its chilling and thought-provoking depiction of a man so hungry for power that he sells his soul to the devil. It was a production that thousands will never forget.

This year, Creation Theatre are back and have teamed up with The Factory to bring us first Hamlet and then The Odyssey. (For further details, see the section at the end of this piece and keep bang up to date on all the news and gossip by following #Hodyssey on Twitter)

Last week some cast members from The Factory came to see the Norrington Room. The actors explored the geography of the space, working out entrance and exit routes, and musing on the wealth of dramatic potential offered up. They proceeded to do an acoustic check so that they could understand the sonic properties of the room and then there was a photoshoot as well as a filmed trailer.

Many of you know the Norrington Room, I’m sure. It’s worth mentioning, though, that every single day we get new visitors to the bookshop who come and discover the Norrington Room for the first time. There’s an area just at the bottom of the stairs which we call – with colloquial familiarity, ‘The Gun Turret’. I’m not sure who coined the phrase, but it’s been called that for years, due, I’m sure, to the fact that it looks a little like a strategic outpost from where one can oversee and guard the rest of the room. Anyway, upon ‘The Gun Turret’ we often have some of our most eye-catching displays, and if you’re ever the bookseller creating said displays, it is not unusual to hear gasps of awe from behind you as those first-time visitors take in the majesty and scale of the Norrington Room.

The other thing one can often witness is how many visitors’ voices suddenly hush many decibels, in a sort of unconscious mark of respect to the room. This is always interesting – this isn’t a library, we don’t demand silence, and yet more often than not, silence descends!

And then of course, after the gasp, after the silence, a visitor begins to take in all those books. Last time Creation were here, their Stage Manager remarked on what a remarkable theatrical ‘set’ the Norrington Room had proved. If this was a film, then yes, you can imagine it, but in what other theatrical production could you imagine the backdrop of this vast quantity of books?

During the daytime, the Norrington Room is the academic heartland of the bookshop – people browse, amongst other subjects, Politics, Business & Economics, Law, Science, Biology & Medicine, Computing, Philosophy and Religion.

In the evening, magnificent author events often take place here and in March and April, Hamlet and then The Odyssey will ring out amongst those tomes and volumes . . . We would be delighted if you would join us.


5th March – 24th March

A Factory Production

Directed by Tim Carroll

The brainchild of director Tim Carroll, The Factory bring their flagship show to Oxford this spring. So far almost 15,000 audience members have helped create a one-night only, sometimes unexpected and always surprising, interpretation of Hamlet. Now it’s your turn. A rigorous exploration of Shakespeare’s verse combined with The Factory’s spirit of mischief and spontaneous play allow the company to delve into the endless possibilities within Shakespeare’s greatest work.

Note to audience:

Every audience member is asked to bring a random object to be used as a prop during the performance. Everything is welcome, large or small, ordinary or bizarre


The Odyssey

29th March – 28th April

A co-production between Creation and The Factory

Directed by Tim Carroll

The myth of Odysseus’ epic journey was ancient when Homer committed it to writing. Almost three thousand years later the stories still echo through our narrative memory. They are tales of famous heroes and villains; Athena, Zeus and the Cyclops, and those you might not know yet; six-headed Scylla, the whirlpool Charybdis and the lethargic Lotus-Eaters.

The Factory turn their unique spirit of spontaneity, playfulness and imagination to Homer’s epic story this spring. Combining movement, song, text and improvisation, each performance will be an original retelling that recreates the spirit of one of the world’s oldest oral storytelling traditions.


Tickets range from £10 – £29

Book online at


or call our Box Office on 01865 766266


Creation Theatre return to Blackwell’s!

We’ve known for months now that Creation Theatre were bringing The Factory to Blackwell’s in March and April with two productions: Hamlet (much acclaimed already and seen by around 15,000 people so far, in venues ranging from The Globe to a London street corner) and The Odyssey (a World Premiere).

It’s about now, however, that the excitement really mounts . . . It’s only weeks away, tickets are selling, anticipation is rising, preparations are more than underway.

Hamlet comes first and without doubt, one of the most intriguing aspects of the production is that the actors put their names in a hat at the beginning of the evening to decide who is playing which part. How versatile is that?! In addition to this, audience members are encouraged to bring their own props, which the actors will work into the play. And of course, all this means that every evening will be a unique experience – the production that you go and see on Monday won’t be the same as the one your friend goes and sees on Tuesday.

The Odyssey will demonstrate the same innovative and dynamic spirit. The Factory won’t necessarily attempt to tell the entire story of The Odyssey every night, (the epic poem is over 12,000 lines long), so instead, audiences will get a different book or books each night – one night it could be the Cyclops, the next night The Lotus Eaters, the night after that the Slaying of the Suitors . . .

Excited? We are and we hope you’ll be able to join us for one (or both) of these productions which will be staged – just as Doctor Faustus was last year – in our world-famous Norrington Room.

Hamlet runs from 5th-24th March. The Odyssey runs from 29th March-28th April. The Creation Box Office number: 01865 766266