Iamhamlet: Working with a Director
Working with a Director
Our main practical task during Unit 2 is a design proposal in collaboration with a director. The director I worked with is Geoff Church. Geoff going to Kazakhstan to direct an unusual production of Shakespeare’s Hamlet this summer, which has not yet been designed. He suggested that it would form a challenging and suitable basis for my project. The production is a collaboration between the DTA theatre in Almaty (a small studio space) and the British Council, and is part of the British Council’s wider celebration of Shakespeare’s 400th anniversary. The concept is that the audience themselves play or experience themselves as Hamlet, with no actor playing the part.
Geoff suggested that I could approach the either working with the budget and space as it actually will be or imagining a more generous budget and an ideal space which would be a found space with the audience moving from one environment to another.
Since I am not able to go to have a look at the theatre in Kazakhstan, and also because it is a much more fun challenge to use a big space, we decided that I would let the performance take place at the Vaults at Waterloo.
I did not know Hamlet at all at the beginning at this project, so therefore I spent quite a lot of time to begin with doing research. I started by reading the play in Icelandic, and then in English. I also watched three different productions of it, a filmed-for television version of RSC’s stage production from 2009 with David Tennant playing Hamlet, a film version from 1996 directed by Kenneth Branagh who also played Hamlet, and then another film version from 1990 directed by Franco Zeffirelli with Mel Gibson as Hamlet. I also watched some documentaries about Shakespeare and found this one about conspiracy theories really interesting.
There is an interesting exhibition on at the British Library, which is a journey through 400 years of history of Hamlet, from the first productions of Hamlet and The Tempest and showcases over 200 unique and rare items such as the only surviving play-script in Shakespeare’s hand, an authentic Shakespeare signature, the earliest printed edition of Hamlet from 1603 and Shakespeare’s First Folio.
I also went to an exhibition at the National Theatre from the NT Archive, featuring recordings, props, designs, costume and more from the National Theatre’s five productions of Hamlet.
I did some research on immersive and participatory theatre and looked into theatre companies that do immersive theatres. I found the work of the theatre company WildWorks very curious. They make theatre with landscapes and people, telling the stories of the world they live in, in unexpected ways.
Steven Berkoff directed a production of Hamlet in 1980 in which he took the title role, and in the book "I am Hamlet", he investigates goes through a man's mind when he is playing Hamlet and makes scene-by-scene observations, which cover the whole range of human experience - from love and death, to life in Britain now.
The design process
I had the first meeting with Geoff on the 30th of March. We spoke about the concept of the production, and brainstormed about themes and possibilities. We decided that he would write up a storyline or an outline of the performance and send me the next week.
The next thing I did was to go and have a look at the space at the Vaults and started brainstorming and sketching. On the 17th of March I got the brief from Geoff with scenes that he is planning to work from when the performance will be devised in Kazakhstan.
On the 25th of April I had a good phone meeting with him where we went through my ideas so far. Since the performance in Kazakhstan is taking place in much smaller space than the Vaults, I came up with few more scenes that I combined with Geoff’s ideas, and formed a mapped journey through the Vaults. My design proposal has probably gone far away from Geoff’s original idea, and what will be possible to do in Kazakhstan, but I thought it was worth it making it big since I was using such a big space.
Below are links to pdf documents with Geoff's brief, and documents where I describe my design proposal, how I plan to use the space, where I get inspiration from and finally a storyline with drawings.
On the 9th of May I presented my design proposal to the class. I made a modelbox of the Vaults on the scale 1:50 to present and also showed my drawings. I did not have time to finish everything I wanted to build in the model-box, and am planning on doing that, and even use this project as a part of my final exhibition in September. Below are photos of my model work.