With the 450th birthday celebrations of one of our most celebrated playwrights well and truly underway, each play serves as a reminder of just how influential Shakespeare’s part has been in the worlds of both the English language and the landscape of theatre making. Founded 2 years ago, Zoe Ford‘s theatre company, Hiraeth Productions has sought to bridge the gap between the Elizabethan/Jacobean era in which Shakespeare thrived, and the technological, forward thinking era in which we now live. Ahead of Zoe’s production of Hamlet, I was able to speak to the Director about her prison inspired interpretation, her inspirations for founding Hiraeth and why being a Text Assistant for Shakespeare’s Globe has proved invaluable!
As founder of Hiraeth Artistic Productions, what inspired you to create the company?
Starting a theatre company was an idea that came to me at drama school; studying theatre performance was the first time I was exposed to the process of theatre creation – production, direction etc. It fascinated me, the thought of starting my own company was exhilarating, so I plunged in head first.
Would you say that the company has a mission statement?
I wouldn’t say we have a mission statement as such; we do say as part of our company description that we are dedicated to creating exciting, provocative and stylistically innovative theatre, meaning we always push ourselves into places which frighten us – by pushing in this way, we hope to keep re-inventing and challenging ourselves to create work which is innovative and exciting.
You’ll be staging a contemporary version of Shakespeare’s Hamlet at Riverside Studios? What drew you to the production?
I have been in love with this play since I was 15 – it has always been an ambition of mine to direct it. It’s exciting because it’s indefinable – it’s a tragic, comic, romance, thriller, horror, tragedy.
Your interpretation of the play centres on Hamlet’s imprisonment at Her Majesty’s Prison, Liverpool. What was it about this setting that suited the play best?
It’s a strange one – when I started considering the play, images started to pop into my head of Hamlet in a jail cell – inexplicable really. But the further I pursued the images, the more they seemed to make sense; his claustrophobia, the voyeurism, the justified paranoia, the lack of choices. And of course the wonderful line: ‘what sends you to prison hither?’
Could you describe the rehearsal process? Is there a typical day?
I would love to be able to profess an infallible process, but this rehearsal process though structured, has been full of twists and turns. The play is about internal turmoil and is therefore rampant with emotional complexity which the actors must pull out and wrestle with every day; whilst some scenes have suited a structured regimental process, others have required quiet contemplation or exuberant experimentation. Regardless, it is inherently exciting and we all love coming in to see what the day will bring!
You’re also a Text Assistant for Shakespeare’s Globe, has this been an influence on your production of Hamlet?
Hugely! Working at the Globe has given me a greater love and respect for the genius of the language. Not to mention, having access to their literary resources has provided me with a wealth of knowledge on the text, its historical placement and it’s history of performance. It has been a wonderful blessing.
What advice would you give to artists/performers looking to form their own Theatre Company?
DO IT!! And once you’ve established it, work harder and push harder than everybody else – there’s that old saying ‘Whilst you were sleeping, I was working.’
Don’t compromise creatively and don’t settle for simple ideas just because funds may be low. You will attract everything and everyone you need into your company to create wonderful and exciting work regardless of money. Remember, at one point, huge companies such as the RSC, were simply just a bunch of people sitting round a table having a chat about theatre they would like to create, they had no idea how successful they would become. Take the risk.
For first time actors and directors looking to take on a Shakespearean Monologue or play, what advice would you give them?
Do your homework, understand the text, the characters, the language, the story; once you have all that knowledge, throw the rule book out the window and create freely your own interpretation – Shakespeare belongs to the people.