Illustration by Ellie Kavanagh ©
While writing the script, we often grappled with questions that pertained more to directorial/production decisions. As both Abi and I are both directors and writers, a number of our stylistic choices were initially influenced by conversations about staging and design, so naturally, those were a main part of the writing process too.
Particularly in the final stage of editing towards the draft we currently have there was a big discussion about how to remove the character of Hamlet without it seeming like just a surface-level surgical fix. We entertained several options because we largely wanted to keep the content the same. Eventually, we decided on not having a separate voice or actor for Hamlet, but rather use some kind of distortion effect on Ophelia who would be delivering lines that are both hers and Hamlet’s. As all happens in her memory we felt like that choice is justified.
Furthermore, for the last edits, we were deciding between that voice distortion happening live vs. it being pre-recorded as a voice-over. Ultimately, we landed on not including specific mention in the lines that they need to be pre-recorded but rather added “a director’s note” at the beginning of the script in order to clarify those choices. So if another director took this script, they may choose to interpret this differently.
Design Ideas: Set, Costumes & Projections
The writing was heavily influenced by visuals that were explored in workshops, through our collaborative work with Punkt Collective, and developed as part of our shared vision. The combination of multiple disciplines as a means of storytelling was also aligned with the subversive agenda of our project. Therefore, early on we conceived of the piece as featuring projections and/or shadow work, non-verbal scenes, movement, and music. Agreeing on that kind of approach to design allowed us to have a strong sense of the “vibe” of what we were going to write and inspired us to think about the dramaturgy of each of those elements, the logic behind them and what they reveal about the world of the play. The eclectic style of the piece, the use of camp, and a highly visual look works to undermine the traditional dominance of the text also by opening up more room for collaboration.
As part of the development of the project, we worked with composer Riley Burke on refining a vision for the music in the piece. The collaboration was framed as a creative response to the script, where we talked through our intentions in terms of the action and the dramaturgy of the play, and Riley responded to it with her own analysis and ideas for how that vision can manifest musically. Over the course of our work together, she created multiple sketches of different ideas, including the ‘glitch’ sound that is quite prominent, and with additional notes and discussions, we have refined two key tracks: the “Echo Theme” and the “Willow Song” which you can hear below.
Together we explored what the stylized ‘glitches’ could look like at least from the perspective of sound. We looked at multiple options and as of right now haven’t quite pinned down a final version, but a sample is included to illustrate the direction we have been working in.
The “Echo Theme” was developed as a repetitive sequence/refrain potentially to be used during scene transitions and set changes as we move through different memories. It was conceived a longer piece from which we would take short recognizable snippets to be used at different moments. The full song is included here.
The “Willow Song” (in two versions here) came from a melody that Riley created in her preliminary sketches. She then experimented with fitting the text into the melody and added additional instrumentation and harmonies, as there are moments in the script when the song is performed by both Ophelia and Gertrude. The syncopated rhythm in places works intentionally against the rigid iambic pentameter, which creates a wholly different experience of the speech — one that resists the structures of the original and is therefore subversive in its form.
Preliminary conversation/pitch with composer Riley Burke.
Score sheets (first page) for the Willow Song and Echo Theme
© Riley Burke