It was first seen in a secret performance to a small invited audience of Facebook friends. Following those performances, word quickly spread about the unique nature of the shows, and the company decided to perform every Sunday, somewhere in London at a secret location, revealed on the internet only days before. Before long, larger venues had to be found to accommodate the crowds congregating at the designated venues each week. Every performance has sold out since. According to the company’s website, "To see The Factory's Hamlet, you need to keep your ear to the ground. We secretly move about London and play in different places as much as possible. We play every Sunday and announce where and when the same week." Potential audiences are alerted via the Factory's Facebook group or by registering an e-mail address on the company's website.
To date, amongst those actors who have made appearances and special cameo performances are Kathryn Hunter, Ewan McGregor, Rufus Sewell, Will Keen and Angus Wright. According to press materials, "an exceptionally special guest [is] planned for the midnight matinee."
The ethos behind the company is that if the work is of the highest standard and reconnects audiences with Shakespeare in an immediate and truly live way, then the audiences would keep coming. So far it has worked. The company's work attracted the attention of the Globe's artistic director, Dominic Dromgoole, who after attending a performance, has invited the company to perform the play at Shakespeare's Globe for a one-night only anniversary performance.
The production is the brainchild of director Tim Carroll, who was previously associate director of Shakespeare's Globe (1999-2005), where his productions included Twelfth Night (which received Evening Standard, Olivier, Time Out and Critic's Circle awards), Richard II, Romeo and Juliet and The Tempest, the latter of which featured Mark Rylance and co-artistic director of The Factory, Alex Hassell. Carroll's RSC production of The Merchant of Venice is currently running at the Courtyard Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon.
He is directing Hamlet with Tamara Harvey and Louis Scheeder. According to press materials, "Every character in the play can be performed from a selection of different actors each night, as each performer has learnt numerous parts. You may for example, see an actor playing Hamlet one night, and Guildenstern the next. The cast will not know which character they will be playing until just before the show begins, when the audience decide. There is no set. What the actors perform on depends entirely on where The Factory has decided to play. If there is a set, it will belong to someone else's production, which will be used for that one occasion, in this case, the set of the Globe's current production of The Merry Wives of Windsor. There are no designated props. Any object that you see on stage or used by an actor will come from the audience. It may be a shoe, a phone, a inflatable dingy... Anything you can bring in to be used. Audience members are encouraged to bring as weird and bold a prop that they can think of! (Please note, we cannot accept responsibility for damaged props!)" For more information visit www.seehamlet.co.uk.