The Factory Theatre's stretched-to-the-breaking-point Hamlet schooled us in the possibilities of theatre this year with a ruthless but deeply rewarding formula for experimentation. What has the company been up to since that marathon final week? Probably more than we know about, but at least some of their time has been devoted to a Directors Studio giving directors, whether new or experienced, a place to take the sorts of risks from which great theatre is sometimes born.
The first director to emerge back into the daylight from this studio is 2008 JMK Young Directors Award finalist Emma Callander, who walked out clutching a double bill of Anton Chekhov's vaudevilles to be staged next week at the Camden People's Theatre. If you've already seen the Donmar's Ivanov (or can't be bothered to line up for tickets) and want to experience a more comedic and experimental side of Chekhov, try these on for size. The Bear and An Unwilling Martyr are less often performed and oddly matched, but as the director explained to us, the vaudevilles
"tell great truths about humanity in a seemingly frivolous format. In both of these plays Chekhov presents the absurdity of the individual, how we tend never to listen but how poorly we manage alone.... I programmed these plays together to highlight the immense potential of human alchemy."
This sounds like Factory territory to us, as does the promise that the actors will improvise within a different audience configuration each night. Emma assures us however that the company has provided only support and a shared ethos, allowing her to develop her own experimental language. Credit ultimately goes to Chekhov himself:
"The strength in structure and style of these vaudevilles make a firm foundation to support experimentation. Chekhov was an innovator in theatre with a famous association with the experimentations of Stanislavsky so we can only hope that he would be proud to have his plays still looked to as a source of inspiration today."
The Bear and An Unwilling Martyr are on from 18-23 November at the Camden People's Theatre. Tickets are £10/£8 concs.