Tag Archives: Sprite Productions

Summer’s lease hath all too short a date

21 Aug

As my long summer suddenly speeds towards its end and my approaching birthday once again warns me that I don’t actually have that long until I need to begin studying again, I felt now would be a good time to continue to put off said studying and write a blog post about my theatre experiences this summer.

Summer is the time of year where many theatres close to prepare for the new season but is also the time when audiences get to sample the delights of open air or site specific theatre.

In July, I went to the grounds of Ripley Castle to experience my first Sprite Productions show; ‘Macbeth’. I say ‘experience’ because this was more than just a play. I have seen, and performed in, the Scottish play countless times and can quite geekily quote passages off by heart, but the set up of this particular production, directed by Charlotte Bennett, made the audience see this well known play with a fresh pair of eyes.  ‘Macbeth’ was a real day out – we sat in the grounds to eat our picnic before being ushered by the three weird sisters to the first location; this was to be a promenade performance through the woods which surround the castle and lake. The audience moved between large areas which represented battlefields to more secluded and intimate corners of the wood for Macbeth’s palace and the witches’ lair and even were invited to sit down and eat the food at a banquet table for the scene where Banquo’s ghost appears. There was not a weak link in the cast – Catherine Pugh as one of the weird sisters was a small but standout performance – and every detail had obviously been clearly thought about. I look forward to getting up to Ripley to see future Sprite productions.

The very next day I was on to more of the Bard! This time, back in York but still outdoors (Rowntree Park) for the York Shakespeare Project’s latest offering of ‘Much Ado about Nothing’. The project, made up of mostly amateur actors but often employing professional directors, aims to stage all of Shakespeare’s plays in a twenty year period (of which it is now half way through). As is the case with British weather, the performance we had originally booked for was rained off but happily we managed to catch it on their last night. What I like most about the project as an audience member is that it always looks as if the cast are having a really good time and are passionate about what they are doing. Yes, there was the odd line stumbled upon and a couple of projection issues but it was fun and enjoyable. The director had chosen to set the play in post war Britain which worked rather well and the songs and dances that were included were well choreographed. Stand out performer was Sebastian Hulkkov as Benedick. He really did the character justice and seemed the most at ease with Shakespeare’s verse. An entertaining evening.

I’ve been getting into a bit of Shakespeare myself with a summer workshop at Upstage Centre where we performed ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. It was a challenge to get a show up in a short amount of time with an age range from 8 years old to 20 (me!) but it was rewarding for everyone when we had a very appreciative audience who weren’t afraid to laugh! I enjoyed playing two roles- Lysander and Starveling – it was fun to be playing a man again!

So, it’s been a bit of a Shakespeare overload this summer (not that I’m complaining!). I’ve also seen York Theatre Royal’s summer show in the main house in the round, ‘Peter Pan’. Since ‘The Railway Children’ in 2008, the theatre has created a reputation for good family shows in the summer months (adapted from well known favourites by Mike Kenny) and this didn’t disappoint, although I have to say that ‘The Railway Children’ is still my favourite (it’s now in London and Canada). Unlike ‘Wind in the Willows’ last year which really drew you in with the storytelling, at times ‘Peter Pan’ almost threatened to descend into panto which clearly entertained the children in the house and the Down’s boy that came with us loved Martin Barrass as Smee and the big crocodile at the end. I enjoyed the Belt Up actors as the pirates and the youth cast were also very accomplished. As usual, the stage design, effects and costumes were obviously well researched and executed. ‘Peter Pan’ didn’t exactly blow me away but it is a magical family show for a summer evening, rain or shine! (On until Saturday 3rd September).