Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory
|Purpose||Shakespeare and Classic drama|
|Headquarters||The Tobacco Factory, Raleigh Road, Bristol|
|Region served||Bristol / England|
|Artistic Director||Andrew Hilton|
Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory is a professional theatre company based at the Tobacco Factory in Bristol, England. It was founded by Andrew Hilton in 2000, with the initial aim of producing two Shakespeare plays between mid February and May each year. The plan was to operate without subsidy, seeking instead sponsorship and using an ensemble of actors recruited or each season. All staff receive the same basic wage. Hilton, an established actor, had spent ten years teaching the craft of Shakespearean theatre at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. The company website states:
We sprung from the conviction that there was an unsatisfied appetite among audiences to see Shakespeare professionally performed by large casts in an intimate space. The British theatre offered this kind of theatre quite widely for a brief period in the 1970's and 80's when many subsidised repertory theatres could afford to experiment with large-cast drama in their new studio theatres. But, with the financial crisis that soon swept the subsidised arts, the form – outside London and Stratford – all but died out, leaving a frustrated audience hungry for more. In Bristol we believed we could find a way to satisfy this demand, and private investors echoed our ambition.
In 2000, the company's first season consisted of productions of King Lear and A Midsummer Night's Dream. These were well received by critics such as Toby O'Connor Morse of The Independent, who commented on Lear: "One of the finest productions of Shakespeare – or any other playwright for that matter – seen in Bristol in years". On A Midsummer Night's Dream, Lyn Gardner of The Guardian commented:
Andrew Hilton's brilliantly clear, beautifully simple production is played on an almost totally bare rectangular space with the audience sitting on three sides. Yet despite its minimalism, it conjures up a rare sense of enchantment, creating the feeling that it would be easy to slip between the parallel worlds of humans and fairies. To do this with just a single strand of fairy lights, music and unaccompanied voices is something of an achievement.
More and more it seems the best theatre is happening outside theatre buildings. Take the company called Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory. Just over a year ago its artistic director Andrew Hilton commandeered an industrial building once central to Bristol's financial prosperity. .... He is eliciting luminous performances, producing forceful, distinctly articulated Shakespeare.
For their third season, The Winter's Tale accompanied Twelfth Night. John Peter of The Sunday Times said of The Winter's Tale, "The costumes are striking and the props are few. Hilton's production, with the audience on four sides, is clean, clear and swift." and Lyn Gardner on Twelfth Night described the production style:
Hilton .... is a plain cook, whose unadorned approach – no concept, the barest stage possible, music used sparingly – pays dividends, largely because the acting has a telescopic clarity. Every emotion seems magnified, particularly in this production, in which laughter and tears mingle and the losers as much as the lovers take centre stage. This is comedy with an ache in its heart.
The 2003 season productions of Troilus and Cressida and As You Like It were praised by critics, who noted that they "differ both from the RSC showcase efforts and the worthy but often laboured school curriculum ad-hoc companies." and
It is tiresome to have to use a small, unsubsidised company in the suburbs of Bristol to beat the great RSC about the head, but one lesson Boyd and his team might learn from the Tobacco Factory's As You Like It is that it is time to return to basics. Stop spending money on big, ugly sets. Concentrate your (and the audience's) mind on the space, the actors, the words. If you have spare money, spend it on costumes. Those were the priorities of the Elizabethan managers.
2004 brought an end to the initial five-year plan, with productions of Macbeth and Middleton's The Changeling, which, after a spring run in Bristol, transferred to the Barbican Centre in London for a five-week run in the autumn.
In May 2004 the original company was replaced by a charity named Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory 2004 Limited. This new status allowed charitable donations and an element of subsidy to be sought. In subsequent years the company has produced many more Shakespeare plays, as well as Anton Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard and Uncle Vanya, and Molière's The Misanthrope. Jonathan Miller was guest director for a 2008 production of Hamlet.
- Brandt, George (November 2002). "Finite Resources, Inﬁnite Dedication: Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory" (Subscription required). New Theatre Quarterly (Cambridge University Press) 18 (04): 343–354. doi:10.1017/S0266464X02000453. Retrieved 16 August 2013.
- Wilson, Robert (30 October 2012). "Financial Statements, period ended 31 May 2012". Godfrey Wilson Limited, Chartered Accountants. Retrieved 16 August 2013.
- "About Us". Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory. Retrieved 23 February 2009.
- O'Connor Morse, Toby (17 February 2000). "Shakespeare meets 'The Long Good Friday'". The Independent – archived report on SATTF web site. Retrieved 24 February 2009.
- Gardner, Lyn (31 March 2000). "Magic on a Shoestring". The Guardian – archived report on SATTF web site. Retrieved 24 February 2009.
- Clapp, Susannah (4 March 2001). "Measure for Measure". The Observer – archived report on SATTF web site. Retrieved 24 February 2009.
- Kingston, Jeremy (29 March 2001). "Coriolanus". The Times – archived report on SATTF web site. Retrieved 24 February 2009.
- Peter, John (24 February 2002). "The Winter's Tale". The Sunday Times – archived report on SATTF web site. Retrieved 24 February 2009.
- Gardner, Lyn (1 April 2002). "Twelfth NIght". The Guardian – archived report on SATTF web site. Retrieved 24 February 2009.
- Parsons, Gordon (13 February 2003). "Troilus and Cressida". The Morning Star – archived report on SATTF web site. Retrieved 24 February 2009.
- Peter, John (March 2003). "As You Like It". The Sunday Times – archived report on SATTF web site. Retrieved 24 February 2009.
- Cavendish, Dominic (16 May 2003). "Where's the Barbican going? Back to Shakespeare, naturally". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 24 February 2009.
- Hemming, Sarah (8 October 2004). "The Changeling – Macbeth". The Financial Times – archived report on SATTF web site. Retrieved 24 February 2009.
- "SHAKESPEARE AT THE TOBACCO FACTORY LTD" (Subscription required). Company Profiles. Lexis-Nexis. Retrieved 16 August 2013.
- "Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory." (Subscription required). Company Profiles. Lexis-Nexis. Retrieved 16 August 2013.
- Smith, Peter J. (September 2008). Review of Shakespeare's Hamlet (directed by Jonathan Miller) at the Tobacco Factory, Bristol, March- May 2008 (Subscription required) 4 (3). pp. 324–327. doi:10.1080/17450910802295427. Retrieved 16 August 2013.