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Elli Mackenzie and Andy Barrow - Hamlet The Comedy (Oddsocks) Interview

Award-winning theatre company Oddsocks are heading back to Coventry's Belgrade Theatre this June with their new take on Shakespeare's most famous work in Hamlet The Comedy. 

The production promises to bring Shakespeare's tragedy to life like you've never seen before with lots of laughs, music and memorable music. The production runs in Belgrade's B2 from Tuesday 14th to Thursday 16th June. Tickets are available from Belgrade's website.

Ahead of the run producer/cast member Elli Mackenzie and director/cast member Andy Barrow talk all about what to expect from this new production.

Q: Can you tell us a bit about Oddsocks?

Elli: Oddsocks Productions are a family-run theatre company which specialises in Shakespeare in indoor and outdoor settings throughout the summer, whilst reimagining classic tales for family audiences during the winter. We take pride in providing accessible and interactive theatre for audiences of all ages and backgrounds, whether they have any Shakespeare knowledge or not!

We also diversify ourselves from theatre in that we work a lot for many Heritage organisations, providing training for their employees. Additionally, we also work with Heritage sites in animation, by bringing the historical settings and/or venues to life with our actors!

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about Hamlet The Comedy and why you have chosen this particular Shakespeare play?

Elli: It is perhaps Shakespeare’s most famous play, even if people aren’t particularly familiar with Shakespeare, they might’ve heard of Hamlet. The narrative is about the human condition, facing your world being shifted and all of the options that are open to you. However, the problem Hamlet comes across is that he struggles to make decisions between the options that are presented to him.

Hamlet is a young person who is anticipating new beginnings, the start of exciting things, such as studying at University… all the while, the world has been pulled from beneath their feet due to the death of a parent in this instance. It feels relevant and relatable to those who are, unfortunately, going through similar experiences nowadays.

Andy: It’s always nice to revisit Hamlet, we have done it twice before… many years ago! It’s a popular and familiar play and it resonates with a wide range of ages. For example, this adaptation will display struggles between the younger and elder generations’ understanding of one another and how one another’s worlds differentiate.

Q: What are you most looking forward to about creating and performing Hamlet The Comedy?

Andy: It’s definitely going to be a lot of fun creating a medieval, Norse mythology type of world. We’re not going to be tied into a modernized setting, so think Game of Thrones crossed with Norse mythology!

Elli: We’re going into a ‘virtual reality’ world of Vikings and Ragnarok, so yes we’re absolutely going to have some fun with it and provide a sense of escapism from the modern world. It’s the first time we will have done Hamlet in the open air as a full production (we’ve previously done it before but in 1994 as a three-hander), so it will be nice to explore a full length production of it.

We’re really looking forward to working again without the restrictions that were around for last summer and hopefully people are now feeling safer to venture out, particularly in the outdoors, to come and have a great evening. So, we’re really looking forward to seeing our audiences again and working with new actors and familiar actors!

Q: What is unique about Oddsocks’ creative and rehearsal process?

Andy: It is quite an intensive process, working and living together with the actors in the same building for the rehearsal process.

Elli: We are out in the country too, so it is an absorbing life as there is our home with the rehearsal room and the pub down the road… But lots of countryside!

Andy: Although there is a lot of preparation beforehand, by the time the actors are in rehearsal, it is intensive because we rehearse, build the set, make props and have the production performance ready within two and a half weeks! However, it is great fun as we consider our work a collaboration with the team of actors that are selected for the production, so it’s great to see new ideas form in the space.

Q: Which character roles will you both be taking on in Hamlet The Comedy?

Elli: I’ll be playing Gertrude (the Mother of Hamlet) and Horatio (Hamlet’s best friend). They’re great because they are completely different roles. Gertrude is so female and Horatio is non-descript and gender fluid and overall a huge character. So, I’m going to really enjoy exploring what’s important about Horatio, which is the love and support of Hamlet. Playing the two opposites is big because Gertrude, equally loves Hamlet, but deals with it very differently. So there are very strong differences between the two characters.

Andy: I’m looking forward to playing Hamlet’s dead Dad… and his live Uncle. So, as you can imagine, two very different characters. One is dead and a kind character, the other is alive and a horrible character. The Uncle is rather impatient, but his father was incredibly patient and caring. So completely opposing characters.

Q: How do you ensure you keep the authenticity of Shakespeare’s scripts whilst adding the Oddsocks flavour to it?

Andy: Generally speaking, we try to evoke the reactions by using the original Shakespearean text. It’s more about the comedic situations that come to hand and being inventive and imaginative with the situation in which we set those particular scenes. So, we’re being authentic but also being imaginative and therefore the text remains untouched, but the focus is pinpointed on the angle of the situations of the scene.

Q: Will there be any surprises or familiarities in Hamlet The Comedy?

Andy: There will be ghosts, furry animals… and that’s all we’re letting you in on for now.

Q: What can audiences expect from Oddsocks’ Hamlet The Comedy?

Elli: A great deal of laughing, action, mild peril…

Andy: Familiar faces of course, but some new exciting performers too! Some thought provoking scenes and overall an enjoyable and accessible performance to a variety of generations! I think everybody will get something out of it!

Elli: Yes, challenging themes will make one think! But essentially, a fantastic night out at the theatre, whether that is indoors or outdoor!

Q: Lastly, can you sum up Oddsocks’ Hamlet The Comedy inthree words?

Andy: Ooo, three words.

Elli: Teenage angst with swords.

Andy: That’s four words, Elli. Perhaps, “parents worst nightmare!”

Hamlet the Comedy arrives at the Belgrade Theatre from Tues 14 – Thurs 16 June 2022. Tickets can be booked by phoning the Box Office on 024 7655 3055 (phone lines open 10:30am – 2pm, Mon – Sat), or visiting where tickets are even cheaper.

Oddsocks Theatre Company

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