One of the great theatrical treats of the Summer is outdoor Shakespeare. From the Cambridge Shakespeare Festival to Illyria’s production of The Merchant Of Venice in the grounds of Westminster Abbey, to the latest touring productions by the bicycle bound HandleBards, soaking up Shakespeare’s classic plays as the sun goes down brings audiences flocking year on year. Now Greenwich is getting in on the act, as we have teamed up with Merely Theatre to bring their outdoor production of Much Ado About Nothing to the grounds of St Alfege’s Church in Greenwich.
Merely Theatre’s Emmy Rose explained the enduring appeal of experiencing the bard’s work outdoors.
“Shakespeare wrote his plays to be performed in theatres like The Rose and The Globe where the actors and audience share a single space and in shared light. Outdoor Shakespeare nowadays is one of the closest ways we can get to how it would have felt. The actors can interact directly with the audience, make them feel a part of the action and carry them through the story.”
“We’re delighted to be starting our 2018 tour with a very special outdoor run at St Alfege Church,” Emmy continued. “My childhood summers were filled with incredible outdoor performances and concerts. For many people outdoor performances may be their first introduction to theatre or to Shakespeare, so it’s great to launch the tour here.
“Not only is the church a stone’s throw from the theatre but it also boasts a wonderful park, completely hidden from the bustling high street. You step across the cobble path into another world of trees, birds and – for one week only – theatre.”
“Audiences can bring their own chairs, blankets, picnics, champagne and enjoy the hilarity of these wonderful shows in a beautiful setting, hopefully with the sun shining. Working in these conditions is incredible. We get to do the job we love, but outside in the sunshine with strawberries!”
Much Ado About Nothing plays at St Alfege’s in August, but for those eager for a taste of Shakespeare a little bit sooner the intimate London Theatre in New Cross is currently home to an all-female production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. With so many London fringe theatres focusing on new writing, I asked artistic director Harry Denford why he settled on this classic production.
“Many fringe theatre do lots of new writing and it is a great platform for writers work to be seen but we wanted to bring established work to the community as well. Our theatre has an artistic policy of presenting well known modern and classical work which gives the audience a chance to see a play they may have heard of but not seen.”
“We produced a succesful all-female Twelfth Night a few months ago which sold out and which got a lot of interest from larger theatres. We decided to follow the format so for Dream, the male roles are played by females playing men. However, the roles of Puck and the Mechanicals are played without gender in mind, or have been changed to female characters.”
A Midsummer Night’s Dream plays at the London Theatre until 21 July
Much Ado About Nothing plays from 20-26 August
James Haddrell is the artistic and executive director of Greenwich Theatre