Hamlet – Set Design Research

I have been looking for sets, or scenes which are very bleak and bare which gives an idea of a post apocalyptic landscape. This ties in with my whole concept for Hamlet in the style of Artaud, and so I have been looking for that kind of inspiration.

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This led me to the idea of incorporating scaffolding into the set, to create a sense of levels and different spaces which there are in the text, such as the outdoor battlements and indoor chambers. By combining scaffolding with rubble and broken items scattered across the stage, hopefully I will be able to achieve this bleak landscape.

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As there are quite a variety of types of spaces within the play, I feel it would be beneficial to include a gauze in front of the scaffolding structure, which can be lit to reveal it or can be lit to completely hide it from the audience’s view. This could also be projected onto to reinforce the idea of the space; although I don’t want the set to be to realistic, it could be effective to project a bleak landscape image onto it, so the audience understand what I am trying to achieve with the scaffolding and rubble.

Different images could also be projected onto it to give the audience an idea that the scenes are in different locations, e.g the graveyard. I don’t want to use this feature too much though as I want the set, costume and overall concept to be unnaturalistic and perhaps a bit grotesque.

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Welcome To The Black Parade

An inspiration for my Hamlet concept is the music video for ‘Welcome To The Black Parade’ by My Chemical Romance. I have always been familiar with the song so when I began my research I remembered the video and how similar it is to what I was trying to achieve.

Hamlet – Gas Masks

I came up with the idea of using gas masks as a symbol of death within the play, and have been researching different styles for my costume designs. The main character to wear a gas mask is the ghost of Hamlet’s father who will wear it throughout the play. I would also like the final scene to include all dead characters standing up, putting on a gas mask and walking to the front of the stage for an eerie curtain call which would make the audience feel really uncomfortable in true Artaud style. They would be joined by other characters from the play who have died, all wearing various gas masks, and stand in silence at the front of the stage until a blackout draws the play to a close.

Although this is stepping into director’s territory, I feel it really enhances my ideas for the theme of the play and reminds the audience how death is a key element to the play and how it is inevitably a tragedy.

Here are some images of the kind of gas masks I would like to include within my costume designs.

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Hamlet – Costume Research

I have decided to create quite unusual costume designs which continues on from the post-apocalyptic theme I decided on, influenced by Artaud and Sarah Kane. I would like the costumes to be a combination of different eras, to reinforce the idea that the play isn’t really set in any particular time or space; it is for the audience to interpret the space how they want to.

I have been researching some images and decided a large factor in the costumes is to be in a Victorian Steam- Punk style. I am really intrigued by that kind of clothing and I feel it would work really well with my overall theme. Although this is the basis for my costume design, I would like there to be other factors added in for different characters so that they are all unique.

I am currently liking the idea of Hamlet in a straight jacket as it fits in well with the warped, dystopia idea of the play, and reinforces the fact that Hamlet feels trapped within his kingdom, or in this case within the strange world he is in. There are other ‘accessories’ I would like to include as well such as gas masks which I find quite haunting.

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I really like the idea of using body suits, or body paint to create these weird ‘creatures’ who I could somehow incorporate into the play as one, of a few, of the characters. It could be interesting to have the ‘soldiers’ like Marcellus, Barnardo and Francisco as this as they kind of come in a three. It would also be a really unique start to the play by having these three creatures roam the stage, which would be an unusual way to begin a traditional Shakespeare play.

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Antonin Artaud

We have been asked to look at a theatre practitioner, or ‘master’, to research and hopefully influence our designs, and so I am going to look at Artaud and his theatre of cruelty. I studied him during my A Levels and was intrigued by his methods and so I would like to take influence from this for my design for Hamlet.

I am also looking at Sarah Kane and some of her works, although she is not technically a ‘master’ her plays and how I imagine them, are similar to what I intend to design for Hamlet. I would like to set the play in some form of post-apocalyptic world which is very bleak and bare; the complete opposite to how Hamlet would have originally been performed. By looking at Artaud and Kane I think I will be able to achieve this.

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OpenCity Project – Audio Tour of Nottingham

Yesterday we experienced the OpenCity Project by Andrew Brown and Katie Doubleday. It was an unusual experience which involved downloading an mp3 file onto our phones, setting off at a specific time with a group, and listening to the recording along the way.

Although we encountered some initial issues such as actually downloading the file, and then the recording would stop and start because of the internet, we finally got it working in time with the rest of the group.

It was unusual to be performing instructions from the recording at the same time as the others, without knowing what we were going to do beforehand. It gave us a chance to appreciate the city, without actually having to be anywhere. It was also quite funny watching members of the public reacting to us moving in ‘silence’ but in sync with each other.

Here is the map which we had to follow:

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Maxine Peake as Hamlet

As part of the course we were recommended to go to the Broadway cinema to see Maxine Peake as Hamlet, at Manchester’s Royal Exchange. The show was apparently a hit, and had an interesting stage design.

We checked this out online and here is the trailer which made us really want to see the show.

We also had a look at the Cineworld in the Cornerhouse and it turned out to be cheaper there so we decided to go there instead. The film lasted around 3hr 45mins and so it was quite long, however I thoroughly enjoyed it and thought it was better than the film adaptations which I have seen. Maxine Peake’s performance was outstanding and I also enjoyed Katie West’s interpretation of Ophelia as I have seen her perform at the Royal Exchange before as a completely different character.

The stage design was really interesting, particularly as it was set in modern day Denmark as opposed to the Elizabethan period. The lightbulbs created tension when the ghost of King Hamlet appeared, and the removable plastic meant the stage had different layers. I was also impressed by the use of specific costume, such as the bin men inspired wear for the grave diggers.