As the sun comes out and life goes back to normal, Shakespeare returns to Oxford for a summer season of the Bard’s work at Oxford Castle.
First up is Hamlet, courtesy of Oxford based BMH Productions, which is already in the throes of the Bard’s greatest tragedy.
Set in Edwardian times, with a modern sound track featuring The Who, Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin to highlight the fraught emotions, expect high drama, a post-war setting and a tight turnaround.
Trimmed to within two hours, BMH aims to make Shakespeare as accessible and enjoyable as possible, so has edited what is Shakespeare’s longest play, into an amenable and time-friendly format. “We work really hard to make our productions as punchy as possible,” he says.
“We work really hard to make our productions as punchy as possible”
“We always joke that it’s Shakespeare with the boring bits taken out, but that upsets the purists who quite rightly say Shakespeare can never be boring. We just remove the unnecessary characters and description, and concentrate instead on the action – Ophelia’s madness, Hamlet becoming a father, the things that sometimes get lost.
“Put it this way, we are very aware of the audience and what they want,” Ashley says.
As for staging it outdoors, Ashley says it’s always a risk, but one that’s paying off in the current climate: “People want to see Shakespeare outdoors in the summer, especially at the moment when the public is still a bit nervous about Covid, so whilst competition is quite fierce in Oxford, there’s certainly the appetite for it.”
“We have always wanted to stage Hamlet and after recent world events, it seemed fitting,” Ashley adds.
“People want to see Shakespeare outdoors in the summer, especially at the moment when the public is still a bit nervous”
Set in Denmark, the play depicts Prince Hamlet and his revenge against his uncle, Claudius, who has murdered Hamlet’s father in order to seize his throne and marry Hamlet’s mother.
BMH’s Hamlet runs until Saturday July 2, followed by Midsummer Night’s Dream by Wild Goose Theatre (previously Tomahawk Theatre) July 4-30 and then King Lear by Siege Theatre from August 1-13.
For more information and to book go to: https://www.oxfordcastleandprison.co.uk/the-oxford-shakespeare-festival/