We’ve had our fair share of stars visit Bard over the years but during a rehearsal for Hamlet on the weekend we spotted a literal star sitting quietly in the back of the theatre: Stars lead singer and songwriter Torquil Campbell. The Canadian front man has had quite the career from acting on the Bard stage with his dad, the late, beloved Douglas Campbell, to appearing in Sex in the City to collaborating with musicians Broken Social Scene and Rufus Wainwright. So what was he doing back at Bard over the weekend? Well, because he’s so awesome, he just so happens (along with long-time friend and collaborator Chris Dumont) to be kindly lending us his talents to create the music and sound for Hamlet.
We managed to grab a quick moment with Torquil to find out a bit more…
How did it come about that you would create the music for Hamlet at Bard on the Beach this season?
Kim [Collier], Jonathon [Young] and I have been talking about working together for a few years now and in this case the timing and the play were both right. I have a lot of love and history with Shakespeare and I think all three of us see this play in a similar way. The ‘stars’ aligned as it were, and we are so happy they did.
Can you talk about creative process for Hamlet’s playlist?
The process started about six months ago with Kim and I meeting and talking and listening to things together. Kim really wanted a modern soundtrack and to include songs and pieces of music that we thought Hamlet might be listening to if he was alive today. When you see the play, you will see the innovative and somewhat mischievous way that Kim has worked these songs into the production. As for ‘sound’ i.e. the other noises in the play that Shakespeare instructs us to provide, we have tried to be as impressionistic as possible with them. There is so much environmental sound down at the beach; you have to be judicious with your use of sound at Bard. We’re trying to immerse you, but not overwhelm you with applied noises.
Were there any challenges involved?
The biggest challenge for me was – I’ve never done this before! I mean, designed music and sound for theatre. So I had to overcome a lot of fear. But Kim is a brilliant leader and a true friend, and she believed in me, so I just closed my eyes and jumped.
What has been the most exciting or interesting part of the process?
The most exciting part of the work is happening right now: watching the music start to intersect with what the actors are putting on the stage and with all the other design elements. I can’t believe I’m part of something so complex, and so powerful. Only theatre takes so many disparate things and puts them together to make art. It’s unique, and I missed it when I was gone.
What will you be doing after finishing work on Hamlet?
After Hamlet, I will be playing more shows with my band Stars, continuing to talk rubbish on the CBC radio show Q, embarking on a project with Ann-Marie MacDonald and Alisa Palmer at the Stratford Festival, and probably making a bunch of pop records with my friends. That’s my day job, that’s where I belong, and I’ll probably never stop.