Bard in the city:

Shake­speare in Nor­wich Cathe­dral

EDP Norfolk - - INSIDE -

The mag­i­cal world of A Mid­sum­mer Night’s Dream will be en­chant­ing au­di­ences at Nor­wich Cathe­dral this July as the fa­mous com­edy takes cen­tre stage for the an­nual open-air Shake­speare Fes­ti­val.

The Lord Cham­ber­lain’s Men (TLCM) – a modern-day in­car­na­tion of Shake­speare’s trav­el­ling troupe of play­ers – will be bring­ing the show to our fine city on July 11 and 12 and us­ing the cathe­dral’s cen­turies-old clois­ters as a stun­ning back­drop.

It is the sixth year TLCM has taken part in the Shake­speare Fes­ti­val, hav­ing last year wowed au­di­ences with an out­door pro­duc­tion of The Tem­pest and in pre­vi­ous years en­ter­tained with

The Com­edy of Er­rors, Much Ado About Noth­ing, Twelfth Night and

Romeo and Juliet.

This lat­est show is set to be ex­tra spe­cial as it is cel­e­brat­ing both the 15th an­niver­sary of the modern day TLCM and an in­cred­i­ble 425 years since Shake­speare’s orig­i­nal play­ers first per­formed in 1594.

“To present one of the best, fun­ni­est, most beau­ti­ful, most well-known come­dies seemed to be ab­so­lutely the right fit for this cel­e­bra­tory year. It’s go­ing to be re­ally quite mag­i­cal,” said TLCM’s artis­tic direc­tor Peter Stick­ney.

“We are in­ter­weav­ing the mu­sic and the text much more than we ever have be­fore and the con­se­quence of that is some­thing re­ally very beau­ti­ful and very spe­cial. It bal­ances quite nicely with the hu­mour that is very nat­u­rally in the show.”

He added: “Fun­da­men­tally the show is about love. There are lovers that flee the city for the so­lace of a for­est which then turns out to be an en­chanted for­est where the fairy king and queen are at odds.

“Mean­while the me­chan­i­cals are try­ing to do a play to cel­e­brate the duke’s wed­ding and ev­ery­body gets caught in the cross­fire of the fall-out be­tween the fairy king and queen – and from there all chaos en­sues!”

As with all TLCM shows, A Mid­sum­mer Night’s Dream will be per­formed just as it would have been in Shake­speare’s day, with an all-male cast, El­iz­a­bethan cos­tumes and mu­sic.

“Go­ing back to the roots of how it was orig­i­nally per­formed ac­tu­ally, iron­i­cally per­haps, gives a re­ally fresh per­spec­tive on the show, it re­ally cracks it open,” Peter said.

“We are not about adding lots of ex­tra el­e­ments to the play, we are much more about ex­plor­ing – ex­ca­vat­ing al­most – the text of the pro­duc­tion.”

But Peter is keen to stress that stay­ing true to the show’s El­iz­a­bethan roots cer­tainly does not mean that it will be dif­fi­cult for 21st cen­tury au­di­ences to fol­low.

“The show isn’t a musty, old mu­seum piece, it’s very alive, it is very modern… but we ab­so­lutely, in terms of our pre­sen­ta­tion, feel that link to Shake­speare very acutely.”

TLCM is tak­ing the show on tour to venues across the coun­try, but for 38-year-old Peter, the Nor­wich Cathe­dral dates are al­ways a spe­cial high­light be­cause he grew up nearby in Saxling­ham Nether­gate. A for­mer Saxling­ham Nether­gate Pri­mary, Long Strat­ton High and Hewett School pupil, Peter first de­vel­oped a love of the­atre while act­ing in high school pan­tomimes.

He also per­formed with the Long Strat­ton-based Spot­light Play­ers and was in­volved in youth the­atre at Nor­wich Play­house and Nor­wich The­atre Royal be­fore head­ing off to study at Ox­ford School of Drama.

“Com­ing back to the cathe­dral re­ally does feel like com­ing to do a play at home be­cause of­ten a lot of my fam­ily and friends come along. It’s al­ways a re­ally spe­cial show,” said Peter, who now lives in London with his wife Arhon­dia and their two-year-old daugh­ter Ne­feli.

Among those who will be watch­ing TLCM’s shows at Nor­wich Cathe­dral will be some of the mem­bers of Saxling­ham Cricket Club.

“That’s where I started play­ing cricket when I was eight or nine and my dad still plays on the gents team. Some of the mem­bers al­most al­ways come to the show at Nor­wich Cathe­dral to sup­port me. There’s a real fam­ily feel to

“The show isn’t a musty, old mu­seum piece, it’s very alive, it is very modern… but we ab­so­lutely, in terms of our pre­sen­ta­tion, feel that link to Shake­speare very acutely”

the club and to the vil­lage, and it holds a spe­cial place in my heart for sure,” said Peter, adding that this year TLCM is spon­sor­ing Saxling­ham Cricket Club’s youth team, set up by Craig Neave, one of Peter’s friends from pri­mary school.

Peter de­scribed Nor­wich Cathe­dral as an “ab­so­lutely spec­tac­u­lar” set­ting that was also unique.

“A lot of our shows are ei­ther in front of or be­hind a large house or in an open space, whereas in Nor­wich Cathe­dral’s clois­ters you are much more hugged in by those walls. It is al­most a the­atre re­ally, the way that it works acous­ti­cally, and the way that it works in terms of its feel­ing and there’s just some­thing about sit­ting along­side a build­ing that has ex­isted for twice as long as the play that re­ally ties you into the his­tory.

“You can for­get ev­ery­thing around you and just be drawn back in time.”

Peter has been part of TLCM since 2007 when he joined the cast of Romeo and Juliet, and he took over the com­pany as artis­tic direc­tor and chief ex­ec­u­tive in 2016.

He said it was “an ex­traor­di­nary priv­i­lege” to be at the helm of a tour­ing com­pany that shares its his­tory with Shake­speare and he joked his ca­reer path was per­haps writ­ten in the stars.

“My work with Shake­speare is fairly fated to be, I sup­pose; Shake­speare’s birthday is on April 23 and my birthday is on April 24!”

When asked what he en­joys most about tak­ing Shake­speare’s shows out on the road and into out­door set­tings, he said it was the spe­cial con­nec­tion be­tween the ac­tors and the au­di­ences.

“It’s a real shared ex­pe­ri­ence, we are all sit­ting un­der the sun to­gether, we are all sit­ting un­der the stars to­gether,” he said, adding that the out­door set­tings were par­tic­u­larly apt for A Mid­sum­mer Night’s Dream.

“In this play, a lot of it is about the nat­u­ral world, with it be­ing set in the for­est. There are count­less men­tions of the moon, count­less men­tions of other nat­u­ral phe­nom­ena and ac­tu­ally be­ing able to see the moon, be­ing able to see the stars, re­ally height­ens the piece and lends it­self to a re­ally mag­i­cal evening.”

At Nor­wich Cathe­dral, be­ing out­doors can also some­times re­sult in some sur­prise guest per­form­ers fly­ing over­head.

“Depend­ing on how many of the pere­grine fal­cons come to visit us, we can get an ex­tra cast mem­ber or two! That al­ways adds a lit­tle bit of some­thing to the mix!” Peter said.

The Lord Cham­ber­lain’s Men’s pro­duc­tion of A Mid­sum­mer Night’s Dream is at Nor­wich Cathe­dral on Thurs­day July 11 and Fri­day July 12 at 7pm. Tick­ets £20. Con­ces­sions (over 60s, NUS and un­der 16s) £18. To book, visit cathe­dral.org. uk/shake­speare or call 01603 630000.

Photo: Paul Hurst

Much Ado About Noth­ing at Nor­wich Cathe­dral

Photo: Guy Wilkin­son

BE­LOW: The Lord Cham­ber­lain’s Men per­form­ing The Tem­pest at Nor­wich Cathe­dral

Photo: Paul Hurst

ABOVE: Peter Stick­ney

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