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Review: Shakespeare Festival

Theatre Company "Much Ado About Nothing" on the Comedy Carpet

Guest post by Lynne Pattinson and Zoe Lamond.

 

To mark the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth, communities across the Fylde Coast came together to celebrate his works through performance, poetry, contemporary dance, puppetry and the Shakespeare Whoosh! The Fylde Coast’s rich built heritage provided exciting backdrops for the twenty six groups who took on the Shakespeare challenge. The idea for the festival came from Deputy Mayor of Blackpool, Councillor David Owen, and was organised by Blackpool’s Arts Service. The majority of the performances were free public events. A review of just a few of the highlights from the festival follows…

 

The Merry Wives of Windsor

The Friends of Stanley Park "Merry Wives of Windsor"
The Friends of Stanley Park: “Merry Wives of Windsor”

It was standing room only at the first performance of the Festival. The Friends of Stanley Park had chosen to perform an abridged version of The Merry Wives of Windsor at the park’s Visitor Centre on a sunny Easter Saturday afternoon. Under the guidance of Elaine Smith they performed the almost farcical piece with the central character Sir John Falstaff, an aged rogue of a knight who  is down on his luck. He plans to seduce two wealthy married women as a way to gaining some money but he clearly hasn’t heard of girl power! The two outraged women hatch a plot to humiliate him with comic results. The play involves lovers, intrigue, a jealous husband, a duel and lots of laughs too. There was a lot crammed into 45 minutes. The actors were so enthusiastic and the audience loved it. The costumes were well researched and authentic and really enriched the production. The Merry Wives was so popular there are plans to perform it again shortly. Watch this space…

 

Get Started "Merchant of Venice"
Get Started: “Merchant of Venice”

 

The Merchant of Venice

The Merchant of Venice is one of Shakespeare’s most powerful plays – with its famous courtroom scene focused on the debt of a pound of flesh owed by the Merchant Antonio to one of Shakespeare’s most well-known characters, Shylock the money-lender.  It is a play about love, loss and prejudice, which was ably tackled by the Get Started Players, a group of small business entrepreneurs and BC Economic Development staff based at FYCreatives, all of whom described themselves as Shakespeare novices. The group performed key scenes from the play with surety and confidence.  A clear and concise narration delivered by Director/Narrator Geoff Reeves provided background and setting and kept the plot moving nicely. Appropriate items of costume and minimal props satisfactorily evoked 16th century Venice. A very enjoyable performance well received by an appreciative audience at the Lawrence House Studio on the first evening of the festival. The studio is an under-used venue which is great for this type of production.

 

Hamlet

Some unavoidable last minute changes to Claremont Park Community Centre’s performance of Hamlet saw a much reduced cast but this did not affect the audience’s enjoyment of this production at the atmospheric Shrine of Our Lady of Lourds. The three players provided a convincing and comprehensive reduced version performing key scenes from one of Shakespeare’s most famous tragedies.

Claremont Park Community Centre "Hamlet"
Claremont Park Community Centre: “Hamlet”

Tony Barnes (Hamlet) gave a between-scenes narrative, clarifying the plot and sharing his personal response to what he said was his favourite Shakespeare play. Hamlet is a powerful play and the dramatic tension centres on the lead character’s mental conflict as he seeks to avenge his father’s murder. Simple staging against the backdrop of the Shrine’s dramatic altar and some sensitive and talented acting from all three cast members made this production one of the most memorable of the festival. If you missed this you missed something rather special.

 

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

A very wet early Friday evening in Blackpool saw crowds converging on the darkened Tower building. Those in the know were in for a treat, the Tower’s famous Circus Arena was the venue for a very special intergenerational performance. The Fylde Coast Youth Dance Company, which consists of 19 dancers aged 11 – 19years from Blackpool, Wyre and Fylde, who meet every fortnight to develop contemporary dance technique and creative skills under the guidance of Dance Leader Leanne Kirkham and Director Sarah Hall, had been paired for the Fylde Coast Shakespeare Festival with the Revoe-lution Choir, Blackpool’s newest community choir.

A magical collaboration in this beautiful setting; the dance company performed scenes from A Midsummer Night’s Dream inspired by Northern Ballet’s recent production interspersed with some musical favourites from the choir. The young dancers’ dream scene was beautifully choreographed and executed and followed by an emotion stirring ‘Somewhere’ from the choir. Other numbers included Circle of Life from Disney’s The Lion King, inspired by Hamlet! Who’d have known.

Deputy Mayor Cllr Owen expressed delight at seeing Shakespeare performed ‘in the round’ in Blackpool and shared his pleasure at returning to the circus arena where as a student actor he had performed in a Shakespeare play.

For more information about the Shakespeare Festival go online to http://shakespearefestival.wordpress.com.

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