Although most of theatre has retreated inside in modern years, outdoor theatre sessions, such as the ones that are taking place at Nottingham’s Heritage sites Newstead Abbey and Wollaton Hall, allow for modern audiences to get a taste of the theatre as it would have been in the days of the Bard.
One of these performances, a rendition of Hamlet, took place at Newstead Abbey. We were lucky enough to have stable weather, and the setting of the sun in the concluding acts of the performance added a layer of atmosphere to the soliloquies and scenes of conflict that round off the play. And of course, the assistance of Arthur the peacock with those iconic lines, “To be, or not to be”.
“Making plays that for many seem unreachable, incredibly funny and accessible.”
The production was conducted by the Three Inch Fools theatre troupe, who are touring the UK’s heritage sites performing Hamlet and A Midsummer Nights Dream on alternate nights, six nights a week. Their troupe consists of 5 actors, who grace the pop up wooden stage in uniform costume and share the multitude of parts within the plays between them.
The company set out to highlight the natural humour that is present even in Shakespeare’s tragedies, making plays that for many seem unreachable, incredibly funny and accessible. They displayed a wide array of performance techniques and used their small cast to a great advantage, making some of the more dated moments within the play seem relevant and understandable.
“A guitar became a gun, a box drum a seat, a pipe a weapon.”
What must be commended is their use of props. A guitar became a gun, a box drum a seat, a pipe a weapon. Then suddenly they were integrated into the performance, helping to bring the atmosphere of Shakespeare’s words to life with little more than musical notes.
A piece that stood out to me was the music that accompanied Ophelia during her descent into madness, combining sweet violin strokes with the drone of the accordion to create a more sinister tone. All the actors were able to pick up the array of instruments and play them with some skill, something that is truly impressive to witness. They sang well and often incorporated the original musical moments from Shakespeare’s play in a way that evoked what contemporary performances would surely have been like.
“Her face constantly flicked through subtle emotions that allowed the performance to seem natural and real.”
Rose Reade, who in all-black took the titular role of Hamlet, shone in the performance, giving a fully animated delivery of the lines. She was not caught in the trap of attempting to deliver a ‘ye olde’ version of Shakespeare’s words, instead making them move out of the net of the past and seem understandable and relevant. Her face constantly flicked through subtle emotions that allowed the performance to seem natural and real.
The Three Inch Fools will be touring all over the country during the summer. For more information about where you can see them, visit their website: http://www.threeinchfools.com/upcomingperformances/
Featured image courtesy of Holly Wilson.