As any English student will know, the work of William Shakespeare was never written to be read and analysed in a stuffy classroom or lecture hall setting – but instead to be seen, and most importantly enjoyed, live.
And with that in mind Trinity Theatre, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, has decided to create its own mini celebration of the world’s most famous playwright by hosting a Shakespeare takeover, both on stage and within its glorious grounds too.
Kicking off tomorrow (Thursday June 30 at 7pm) with Bring on the Bard, the mini festival runs until Sunday and will include a slew of fun and engaging performances including A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Much Ado About Nothing.
The reason behind Trinity’s decision to celebrate some of the Bard’s key works courtesy of a variety of different theatre companies in the great outdoors is down to one simple reason: accessibility.
The venue’s Artistic Director Sean Turner tells the Times:
“There is nothing that is more quintessentially British summertime than Shakespeare in a garden – rain or shine,”
Sean explains. “We all know Shakespeare can be kind of intimidating, particularly for young people so we have handpicked some theatre companies that do things a bit differently.
Each in their own way has been designed to break down the barriers and make the Bard of Avon’s work accessible. I cut my teeth as a director working on these kinds of plays and it is nice to be able to offer opportunities to the next generation of Shakespeare interpreters.”
The first show Bring on the Bard is a new partnership between Trinity Creative Engagement, Kent County Council’s Reconnect Programme and The Shakespeare Project.
“Bring on the Bard introduces Key Stage 3 school students to the magic of Shakespeare in a cultural education project which promotes confidence and understanding. Supported by Trinity’s theatre practitioners, our partner schools have immersed themselves in a cross-curricular creative learning experience,” explains a Trinity spokesperson.
“Participating schools choose from our selection of sonnets and monologues and accessibly abridged scripts and used a specially created accompanying resource pack to prepare, then take to the stage for performances in our professional theatre to an audience of family, friends and the local community.
“This festival offers opportunities for young people to get involved behind the scenes, working with Trinity Theatre’s professional technical department on lighting, sound and stage managements, and the chance to see professional performances of Shakespeare’s plays throughout the festival period.”
Bard in the Yard’s Artistic Director Victoria Gartner adds: “The past few years have been tough on all of us, but particularly on children’s mental health and their access to education – funding cuts mean that after two years of theatres being closed, it will be harder than ever to access Shakespeare in a playful way. So, this season, we are delighted to announce that Williams Nicolson will help us take the Bard to school yards across the country.”
And it’s a project which receives high praise from Hollywood royalty Dame Helen Mirren:
“Bard in the Yard is a simply wonderful project which brings Shakespeare to everyone, delivering humanity, connection and inspiration just when we need it the most. If you’re looking for an unforgettable theatrical experience, I highly recommend it.”
Following Bard in the Yard the next evening, July 3 at 7.30pm, the Players Theatre Company presents its interpretation of Twelfth Night. Trinity’s spokesperson says this particular troupe made the cut as ‘they breathe new life into Shakespeare’s comedy of mistaken identity, music and love’.
The newly established and all-female company promises to pack a punch thanks to its eclectic take on this classic Shakespeare piece which is set in Illyria where multiple plots are interwoven.
Then on Saturday afternoon, July 2 at 2.30pm, Bard in the Yard will be back with The Scottish play. According to the Trinity spokesperson the plot goes a little something like this:
“William Shakespeare is trying to write a new masterpiece, and has the weight of his company’s eager return to the stage on his shoulders. What’s more, Shakespeare has been sent to Scotland to write a masterpiece, but apart from meeting a witch and penning a rough draft of a speech about a dagger, he’s got nothing! The King will have his head on a stick if Will dares show his quill in London without a Scottish play.”
The afternoon’s alfresco entertainment will include a ‘roller-coaster ride’ of classic monologues and plague quarantine travails from its author and director Victoria Gartner. Once again, Dame Helen Mirren, lends her support to this particular project saying: “If you’re looking for an unforgettable theatrical experience, I highly recommend The Scottish Play.”
Bard in the Yard performs to audiences in – yes you guessed it – yards as well as schools, care homes, pubs, clubs, cafes, outdoor theatres, on jetties, in cathedrals… “All the world’s our stage, really,” they tell us.
On Saturday evening at 7.30pm Trinity audiences will be treated to an on stage performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Bowler Crab – who this year are celebrating their tenth season. The group specialises in Shakespearean performance, producing UK theatre tours as well as repertoire performances for schools, festivals, dining experiences, weddings and private events. It was founded in 2013 by Artistic Director Stephen John and the company’s goal is to complete the entire Shakespearean canon.
This particular show will be Stephen’s fifth version of the A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and his latest version takes experiences and styles from all four past productions. “This show blends them into an energetic romp through Shakespeare’s most popular comedy,” he says.
The group’s theatrical style can be considered as a mixture of minimalism and traditionalism, bringing Shakespearean language to life using fresh creative perspectives on customary performance practices inspired by literary themes rather than excessive sets or special stage effects.
Find yourself among trick-some fairies, enchanted lovers and ass-heads as The Bard’s magical romantic comedy is performed in beautiful rhyming verse. It promises to be a ‘comic fairy tale with song, dance and humour galore.’
Finally on Sunday afternoon at 2.30pm Trinity’s mini Shakespeare festival will wrap with Much Ado About Nothing. Shakespeare’s tangled tale will be performed by Shake-Scene – and rather intriguingly from lines and cues only – and with no group rehearsal.
“That’s how it was done in Shakespeare’s time!” laughs a Shake-Scene spokesperson. “We are the only company in the UK currently performing this way so you won’t want to miss this unique theatrical adventure!”