The Takeover Festival at York Theatre Royal is a breath a of fresh air. The programme is really interesting and inviting. However, I was wondering after seeing The Factory’s experimental Hamlet and Seagull Project that the regular audience at York Theatre Royal had the impression that the festival is not only run by young people but the programme was just for young people as well. Yes there were some over 25s in the audience, but the majority of the audience when I attended on Wed and Thurs was a young audience. This is great, because it is brilliant to see young people at the theatre, but I would have thought that The Factory’s work would appeal to a much wider audience.
The Hamlet works very closely with Shakespeare’s text to produce an interactive comedy. I felt it wasn’t really about bringing new meaning to the play, but was more about interpretation and ways of playing. This works really well in line with the theme of acting and playing that runs through the play. On the other hand, The Seagull Project’s focus is not on Checkov’s actual text, but on translation and improvisation.
The audience for Hamlet are asked to bring props which the actors use in the production in inventive ways. The night I went some people had brought toy ghosts but these were not used as the ghost of old Hamlet, instead a large doll which was very amusing. The actors have to think very quickly about how they are going to use what they see in the audience. The use of the props really shift the meaning of Shakespeare’s text. For example, Ophelia’s remembrances from Hamlet was a darlek, which meant Ophelia could use a darlek sounding voice to answer Hamlet in the Nunnery scene. There were two Hamlets at one point, but I wouldn’t read anything into this in terms of the text. I liked the way the actors represented the fact that they were dead on stage giving a feeling of the dead walking amongst the living.
Hamlet was in the Studio space on the Friday night and though I didn’t see the production, I thought that this space would probably work better than the main stage. The Company did inhabit the main theatre really well and didn’t forget to involve those in the Dress Circle. The studio space is more intimate and the actors are closer to all the audience. Hamlet and The Seagull Project are performances that you could go to over and over again and be sure to see something new and different on each occasion.
It’s brilliant to see such a large young cast working so well together.