Bard among the bookshelves


Birmingham Rep/Birmingham Library


BIRMINGHAM Central Library is a remarkable place. It hosts seven floors, holds beautiful rooftop gardens and is a hub of resources that are endless to list

 I am writing this on the library’s second floor computer and I can feel creative energy all around.

There is a prayer room behind me, people are talking about work and I can hear music from a piano on which someone is practising. Birmingham Library is a world within itself.

This week it was transformed by The Young Rep and Hotel Teatro to give us an amazing experience of their production of Hamlets.

In their approach to Shakespeare’s most famous play, the library became the setting of Hamlet’s Denmark, where we explored not only the familiar story, but were witness to a comment on the process to Hamlet’s self-destruction. The production directed by Daniel Tyler was certainly unique. Tyler showed the versatility and relevance of the Bard’s work today.

This is a great piece of immersive theatre. The cast were at ease with their surroundings and took us through an exciting tour using every last inch of the library’s space.

We started off on the ground floor, where a snapshot of the family was seen. Gertrude and Polonius dress in lavish traditional Shakespearean costume which was a great introduction to the imagination.

The addition of The Archivists however was exceptionally interesting. They entered wearing boiler suits and masks, examining the players, differentiating themselves between the world of Hamlet and ours, ready to lead the audience into the unusual setting.

We were taken on a scene-by-scene journey by The Archivists that lead us in and around the library. Of course, The Shakespeare Memorial room was the perfect place to start. An interesting touch was when we went to the roof of the library, in the scene of his Father’s Ghost.

We were greeted by Andrew Browlie delivering the ghosts chilling words looking out to the night sky of the city. This was the perfect space for the scene, although the addition of a voice altering mask made his character seem banal, and took away from the emotion of the piece.hamelets logo

Hamlet was played by Nine people, all different in style with exceptional performances from each. With this terrific concept, it was as if we were inside Hamlet’s mind at all times. With Nine performers playing the character, it could be fair to say that our minds became one with Hamlet. We did not just see a character, but a state of mind.

The crux of the play was when the audience were allowed to wonder upon their own pleasure, right in the middle of the story. We saw here Hamlet’s fast decline to madness. When absorbing Nine Hamlet’s at such a close proximity, we could always see Hamlet’s inner thoughts and feelings. This made us think about Hamlet as a character in a truly different way, and with each performer giving their own talented approach, we realise that we may not know Hamlet as well as we may think.

We also see Eighteen versions of ‘To be or Not To Be’. The audience were allowed to explore each one as much as they liked. In this sequence, the display of culture was breath-taking. We were introduced to language, speech, film in an interactive storytelling way that we were also a part of.

Hotel Teatro Theatre Company worked in perfect harmony with the Young Rep. The difference of costume and ages were a fantastic touch to show that Hamlet wants to be totally separate from his family.

Claire Worboys played Gertrude with such emotional precision that it was hard to go and explore elsewhere when she was performing. The same can be said for Michael Barry who played Lord Polonius. The connection between the two companies was remarkably engaging and with the addition of a third connection being the audience, a wonderful piece of art was both shown and created.

Hamlets is a beautiful comment on the human mind and relationships. This production however has something more precious to offer. It is celebration of the wide and ranging culture within the city. It opens the audience’s eyes to the exemplary talent of its young artists and the ranging worlds that they too are also a part of. Birmingham Library is an excellent setting for the production and is a fantastic experience to all who watch. To 21-03-15

Elizabeth Halpin



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