“Resourcefully minimalist, the coordination is slick and the acting, confident”
Hamlet sees his dead father’s ghost, pretends to go mad with revenge, becomes mad with revenge and everybody dies. Similarly, in a whirlwind performance, ‘6Foot Stories’ encapsulates Shakespeare’s longest work in just over an hour. The play, often abridged to around three hours, weaves together a complexity of themes, motifs and psychology which, while engaging the audience, challenges them with questions on certainty vs indecision, action vs inaction, appearance vs reality. Here, branching off from the up-dating, setting-change and gender-reversal productions, it is the group of actors employed by Hamlet to reenact his father’s murder and prompt a guilty reaction in his uncle, who also witness the ghost and are commanded to incite vengeance for his death. Thereupon, the players rewrite the script they have been given and hope to fire up Hamlet’s wrath.
We are packed into their rehearsal room, walls strewn with plot and character analyses, and watch this condensed retelling as the three members of cast put pen to paper and draw up a narrative involving the prince. Sharing roles as well as technical duties, each takes their turn as sound engineer, lighting technician, stage manager…and Hamlet, while adopting the play’s other main parts: Amy Fleming is a bumbling, pipe-smoking Polonius; sensitive, fragile Ophelia is played by Will Bridges; Jake Hassam towers above as charming antagonist, Claudius. At an enthusiastic pace, we are whisked through a simplified storyline which incorporates the essential highlights of plot and script and sums up the characters. The team operates their own lighting (designed by Nigel Munson), helping to dramatise the action, and sound (Jake Hassam), sometimes enhancing, other times rather overpowering in such a small venue. Thoughtful and well-constructed, this adaptation incorporates brief touches of puppetry, live music and fight sequences, all of which keep the sense of a theatrical environment and there are occasional strong moments of drama – Ophelia’s death, for example. But it is confusing as to the motivation behind the project apart from a live summary.
The creative roots and backstory of the company are evident through the production’s original style and lively energy. Resourcefully minimalist, the coordination is slick and the acting, confident. For those already familiar with ‘Hamlet’ it is a fun view from a different angle, a catch-up of old friends. Newcomers to the work might get the gist of the tale but, then again, may not.
“You’re guaranteed to feel sickened and hysterically entertained at the same time.”
Director Mathew Parker clearly has a penchant for tales that are dark and disturbing. Having had previous success with other Hope Theatre in-house productions, Thrill Me: The Leopold and Loeb Story, The Lesson and Lovesong of The Electric Bear, they all have a similar theme of sinister unsettlement to them. Parker undisputedly has a knack for the genre of black comedy/thriller and brings his expertise to this latest show. The House of Yes is deliciously uncomfortable yet devilishly funny. A rare outing of Wendy Macleod’s under-the-radar 90’s hit play and film, this is a thrilling revival, losing none of its shock value or humour.
It’s Thanksgiving in Washington D.C. A hurricane is sweeping through the capital, but it’s not just the weather that’s blowing up a storm. The Pascal family, of upper-class, WASP-ish pedigree, who live in a time warp since the Kennedy assassination, are feverishly awaiting the arrival of the prodigal son, Marty (Fergus Leathem). None is as excited for his return as his unstable twin sister Jackie-O (Colette Eaton). However the presence of Marty’s fiancee, Lesly (Kaya Bucholc), there to meet the family, comes as somewhat of a surprise. The obsessive Jackie is not best pleased, younger brother Anthony (Bart Lambert) is infatuated, and Mother Pascal (Gill King) is judging from the shadows as she watches on. In a series of twisted events and manipulations, the night soon becomes a Thanksgiving no one will forget.
The cast, on a whole, do a marvellous job at giving heightened performances that never fall into being camp and melodramatic, which could so easily occur with Macleod’s writing. Eaton as Jackie-O teases you with her fragility, never knowing when she might do something drastic, whilst Lambert’s oddball physicality and leering looks as Anthony are decidedly creepy and comical all-in-one.
The studio space is decked out by designer Rachael Ryan with gold drapes, and gilded frames, to give a nod to the cavernous, elaborate home of the Pascals, yet uses the intimate environment of the theatre, full of shadowy little corners, to heighten the gothic, haunted house aesthetic.
With an Absurdist veneer and Noël Coward-like sensibility, The House of Yes gives an unconventional take on theatrical commonalities, creating its own Frankenstein mish-mash of genres. The subtext hints to deeper messages on the themes of family politics, and the American class system, but never lets this interfere with the stylised exterior. Instead it is just tantalisingly bubbling under the surface. Regardless of being nearly 30 years old, this play still feels rather daring, even if not so relevant to today. You’re guaranteed to feel sickened and hysterically entertained at the same time.