Thursday 8 March 2012

Hamlet at Blackwell's bookshop

Last year on one of my first dates with Jam, I got taken to see Fautus at Blackwells Bookshop. It was incredible, the production itself was fresh and had loads of detail put into it by some very clever use of props and limited actors (and the setting of the bookshop, seeing a literary work amongst the collection of all those millions of writers thoughts was magical).
Imagine how excited I was when I found out the aforementioned Blackwells were putting on Hamlet this year? (if it were a noise it would be something like awwwwoolllllhhheeeessggghaaaaa!) We booked our tickets. The performance we caught was on a Wednesday, only 3 days after the prodution had opened. As instructed in our booking email we took random objects (me tiger the tiger and Jam a pair of 3D glasses we bought to see the film Hugo).
 With 2 mins to go the main actors chose a 'champion' from the audience to play paper/scissors/stone on their behalf, thus democratically deciding the roles (at this point I had aleady given extra marks for being able to remeber more than 1 part of a Shakespeare play when all I can remeber from my studies are a couple of solioquies... oh and Hamlet is cast as a girl, hurrah) .

As the play is about to start we are told the actors will point at our 'props' when they want them. Old Hamlet claims a sweeping brush (which is great as you can hear him coming before you see him), while Claudius favours a skeleton stick (and proceeds to carry about regally for the rest of the play). Hamlet takes a shine to some plastic beads and at very odd moments more cleaning gear, a full size cardboard cutout of an actress and several members of the audience are used as props by other cast members.
(Like the first production I saw the actors make great use of the surrounding area jumping off bookcases and constantly breaking the 4rd wall by coming in and amongst the audience, Ophelia takes a shine to Jam and gets him to clap along to her song as we all join in). The plot and the play gain pace, Ophelia dies and its the interval. Tiger and I go for a browse upstairs while Jam peruses the science books (another reason why this an awesome venue, where else would you get the chance to peruse books?
This is some interval entertainment!). 10 seconds before the second half begins tiger has been spotted, an actor grabs him and disappears into the gloom, we wait to see if he receives his curtain call... Soon enough (or rather too soon) the final act is upon us, Hamlet’s duel with Laertes, Hamlet selects his weapon, IT'S TIGER!
 Laertes his (a chicken tea cozy?) and they dual, switching weapons halfway through as tiger claim the hearts of millions (well kind of) and Hamlet is defeated. The curtain falls (well it would except this is a bookshop so the fairy dust is put away, the lights go up on what has now ben restored to an empty stage surrounded by bookstacks). We reclaim tiger and head out to the streets of Oxford. This production was I think its fair to say another triumph for its hosts Blackwells/Creation theatre. A great award cup must also go to the Factory who were responsible for this innovative production. Hamlet was never one of my favourites at university,  the main character being far from my taste I found his musing boring rather than deep. Its fair to say that this production breathes new life and imagination into Hamlet's bruised carcass, so catch it while you can! Tickets are available here.
 N.B all the photos from the production were taken before it started I am not one of those annoying people who takes photos during performances & you shouldn't be either!

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