All the castle is a stage

A Midsummer Night's Dream
A Midsummer Night's Dream
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The spacious courtyard in Lancaster’s mediæval castle will play host to an open-air production of William Shakespeare’s magical and riotous comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream later this month.

Demi~paradise has staged various Shakespeare plays in the castle over the last decade – the Dukes’ annual promenade play in Williamson Park marks its 25th birthday – this landmark production is thought to be the first-ever outdoor theatrical performance in the castle.

It is a joint venture between the University of Lancaster’s Faculty of Arts and Social Science Enterprise Centre and Lancaster Castle, which is under the management of the Duchy of Lancaster.

The production will feature final-year English and Theatre Studies students as well as local actors and musicians and technical support experts.

The performance and design contributions of the 12 students, will be formally assessed as part of their final degree portfolio work.

I recently enjoyed a civilised coffee with Professor Alison Findlay of the University’s Shakespeare Programme, and her husband David, who has worked as a professional actor and director for many years.

They are very excited by the prospect of staging what is many people’s favourite Shakespearian comedy in this distinctive and evocative setting.

David said: “This is an event made in and inspired by the locality. We’ll be performing near to the castle’s ticket office and reception centre with the audience encouraged to bring picnic rugs to sit on the astro-turf at the centre, and the actors working around (and amongst) them right across the castle courtyard.

“A number of outdoor chairs can be reserved (with priority for elderly or disabled spectators) in advance. The audience can bring picnics or order these in advance from NICE @The Castle.”

David is not deterred by Lancashire’s propensity to rain: “The show will go on regardless, so the audience is advised to bring waterproofs just in case storm clouds gather.”

Given that the final performance, on Saturday, June 21, coincides with the Summer Solstice, he is cheerily optimistic.

“Music (composed by Eleanor Brindle) will be performed by members of the company, joined by local musicians Duncan and Liz Bell,” added Alison.

“The newly-designed costumes will display an eclectic style using vibrant colours to bring out the elements of fantasy which are so important in Shakespeare’s play of midsummer magic.”

Having carefully established exactly when the sun will set, she adds that some lighting will be needed for Act V.

“We’ve been very fortunate to receive advice on lighting from the renowned lighting designer, Alan Cox and from Steve Jackson and Stephanie Sims of the Lancaster Institute for Contemporary Arts at Lancaster University.”

Performances are on Thursday, June 19, Friday 20 and Saturday 21 at 7pm.

Numbers are limited and tickets are £20 or £10 for concessions.

These can be reserved online via http://wp.lancs.ac.uk/shakespeare/a-midsummer-nights-dream.

By Michael Nunn