Spotlight – Charlie Oulton, Director of Hamlet

David Knowles talks to Charlie Oulton

Charlie Oulton Hamlet

Charlie, as the director of Hamlet which will be showing early in Epiphany term, can I ask what experience of theatre have you had before taking on this project?

As a bright eyed fresher I directed the fresher’s play the Government Inspector in the Assembly Rooms. I had a great time working with other freshers producing a play that I could only research for two days prior to the first audition! Being thrown in at the deep end really showed me how important preparation is to directing a show and, although I thought the spontaneous nature of rehearsals was fun, I wish I had more time to prepare beforehand.

Why does directing appeal to you then more than acting or producing?

Doing the Government Inspector made me realise how much I love working with actors. I feel that I can bring out the appropriate emotions and guide them to fit my vision. I think that, although I enjoy acting immensely, I like the experience of creating my own piece of theatre. I also love power (laughs).

Hamlet is a massive play in many respects, what made you choose it?

You’re right. For most people Hamlet really is ‘the play’ to do and perform in. The language is obviously stunning and a joy to listen to, really it is the play that any directors feels they ‘have to’ direct. For me the sheer enormity of the undertaking was also attractive and I really think that I have a great vision for the play.

Are you at all worried that it may be too big for student drama company to handle?

Big as in long is certainly a problem. The whole of Hamlet is something like over four hours long, a length me and the rest of the production team thought was a little too long! We have therefore made some quite extensive cuts. This will make the whole thing easier for us and the actors. The major thing we have done is to kill off a character. We all felt that the fact that Fortinbras only appears a few times in the later stages of the play meant we could probably do without him, killing off another subplot saves a lot of time. We knew it was a big decision but feel that the play will be slicker and all the better for it.

You have talked about your vision for the play, what are your plans for staging?

Well first of all I think that Hamet is timeless. That is why it appeals to us now, reading it many hundreds of years distance from its milieu. In the Assembly Rooms the plan is to have a giant white sheet stretching all across the back of the stage. This sheet will have cinematography and other exciting things projected onto it. We’re hoping that parts of the sheet will be moveable and we want to be constantly rearranging it to make the different scenes. The stage itself will be fairly bare, no clumpy tables or sofas. For us the language is the most important thing that should take precedence over everything else.

Earlier you mentioned something about an original score, why have you chosen to do this and what will it sound like?

I was originally inspired to have an original score for the show from watching Clockwork Orange last year which beautifully adapted Beethoven 5 as a soundscape for the performance. They created such a beautiful and fascinating soundscape that I knew I had to create one for my show too. I do think music is far too often used in really cheesy way, something that we must avoid. For example, I once saw a production of Romeo and Juliet that used Forever Young as backing for the final scene which wasn’t great. I suppose another reason is to incorporate the skills of a wider variety of Durham students, not just actors and techies. The most I’ll tell you now is that it will be a wonderful, terrifying soundscape full of long held notes and screechy violins.

Tell us in a sentence what your production of Hamlet is going to be?

A visual experience of psychological terror.