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Creation Theatre and The Factory

Not for the Bookish: Hamlet Will Get
Radical Treatment in Bookshop Production

Creation Theatre Company in Oxford, England, is teaming up with the artistic collective called The Factory to present a staging of Hamlet in the vast book-lined basement of Oxford’s Blackwell's Bookshop in March.

Along with Hamlet, a restaging of what a Creation Theatre Company press release calls The Factory’s “flagship production,” the two organizations are also collaborating on a new adaptation of Homer’s The Odyssey, also at the landmark Oxford bookseller, which has been in business since 1879 (as someone who once got lost in the stacks of a university library, I consider setting The Odyssey in a similar locale awfully apt).

Hamlet will run from March 5–24; The Odyssey from March 29–April 28. Both plays are directed by Tim Carroll.

Now in its 17th year, the Oxford-based Creation Theatre Company has a rich history of creating unforgettable theatre in unusual locations. Blackwell's hosted Creation for the first time inside its world-famous bookshop last spring with Doctor Faustus, which proved so popular the run was extended and extra standing room added to cope with demand.

With the appointment of new Executive Director James Erskine, the company is embracing the power and possibilities of artistic collaborations, as well as arts and business partnerships, and The Factory’s radical approach is a natural artistic fit, said the Creation Theatre press release. The Factory’s Hamlet has been experienced by almost 15,000 people and has played in established UK theatres and such locations as the corner of Regent Street in London and a sewage works. The troupe of 15 actors are sometimes supplemented with cameos by the likes of Josh Hartnett, James McAvoy, Rufus Sewell, and Kathryn Hunter.

The actors will perform in the bookshop’s Norrington Room, which lies under Oxford University’s Trinity College Quad, surrounded by more than 200,000 books. The staging will be semi-improvised, and an audience of approximately 300 will stand alongside the actors as well as seated around the space.

The two shows will be performed according to The Factory’s unique philosophy, that the live experience and spontaneity are paramount to an authentic and inspiring performance.  Actors will learn a number of roles and play a game of chance before the show to determine the casting for that evening. For Hamlet, the audience is encouraged to bring random objects to be used as props onstage.

“Creation has been breathing new life into classic literature and drama in myriad Oxford locations for the past 17 years, so the ‘play anywhere’ approach of The Factory makes them natural producing partners,” Erskine said in the press release. “Our on-going partnership with Blackwell’s is helping redefine the cultural and social relevance of bookshops for the 21st century. This remarkable collaboration, marrying a world famous bookshop and one of the most innovative theatre companies to emerge in the past five years, is a mouth-watering prospect.”

Both productions will be directed by Tim Carroll (Shakespeare’s Globe, RSC) with associate directors Louis Scheeder (RSC founder and director of The Classical Studio) and Tamara Harvey (Shakespeare’s Globe, Birmingham Rep).

February 15, 2012

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