Shakespeare Open Stages project comes to St Albans Abbey Theatre

PUBLISHED: 09:43 12 February 2012

Young lovers Hero (Anna Fordham) and Claudio (Jack O'Brien) in Much Ado About Nothing

Young lovers Hero (Anna Fordham) and Claudio (Jack O'Brien) in Much Ado About Nothing

Archant

SHAKESPEARE comes to the fore when the Company of Ten puts on two productions of the Bard’s work at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans from later this month.

Much Ado About Nothing and a special production entitled Shakespeare and Love – Sonnets in the Studio are being performed from February 22 to March 10 as part of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Open Stages project.

The project is part of the Cultural Olympiad and around 570 productions are being staged by over 100 amateur theatre companies around the country although only one other company is featuring the sonnets.

Members of the Company of Ten have taken part in workshops and training sessions run by RSC acting and technical experts which have helped to shape the company’s productions.

Angela Stone, director of Much Ado About Nothing, decided to set the play in Ireland in 1900. She was struck by the way in which Ireland at the end of the 19th Century had many similarities to Elizabethan England – changing views about family relationships and the role of women, fierce military actions related to political pressures and a society strongly divided between upper and lower classes.

The setting gives the cast of 20 the chance to have great fun at the masked ball with live music from bodhran, penny whistle and spoons.

Much Ado About Nothing was the one of the first of Shakespeare’s plays to be put on at the new Globe Theatre in 1598 and mixed prose and poetry in a way that seemed designed to appeal to the widest possible audience in the new playhouse.

It can be seen on the Main Stage at the Abbey Theatre between 24 February and 3 March.

The second production, Shakespeare and Love – Sonnets in the Studio, continues the exploration of the sonnets by poetry lovers and scholars over the centuries.

Three of the Company of Ten’s most experienced directors, Terry Prince, Margaret Metcalf and Martin Goodman, are presenting an evening of drama and music using the sonnets as a springboard to set Shakespeare’s verse in a contemporary context.

The first section, entitled Two Loves I Have..., enacts the tribulations and perplexities of love in the eternal triangle, this time an older man, a young man and a woman.

Sonnets in the Office takes a humorous look at the sonnets in a modern context, contrasting today’s approach to love – old love, new love, lost love, found love – with the Bard’s wit and words.

In Sonnets on Trial, Shakespeare is put in the dock for indecency, and women from history – Anne Hathaway and George Eliot among them – rise to his defence to rescue him from the ignoble image of a cad casually deserting his wife.

Shakespeare and Love – Sonnets in the Studio runs from Monday, March 5 to Saturday, March 10.

Tickets are available from the box office on 01727 857861 or online at www.abbeytheatre.org.uk

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