Summer Shakespeare provides open-air treat

SHEFFIELD’S Peace Gardens may have been designed for live productions but they only hosted their first ever theatrical experience last week.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 4th August 2011, 11:33 am

There was a bit of sunshine and more than a touch of rain but nothing could spoil the ground-breaking city centre Shakespeare performances.

This was a large dose of British summer time combined with classic tales and good acting.

GB Theatre Company staged Romeo and Juliet as well as Twelfth Night on consecutive evenings, to the delight of picnickers of all ages.

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Families set up blankets on the grass, couples snuggled together under waterproofs and surprised passers-by paused to glimpse a piece of the action over the barriers.

They were rewarded with traditional costumes, energetic sword fights and the world’s most famous lovers dying dramatically on the spot where the Peace Gardens fountains normally spring to life.

Gabriel Thomson played Romeo with Lucy Wray as Juliet and, even though they could have been a million miles from balmy evenings in Verona, they were given a very enthusiastic reception.

Neil Sheppeck directed Romeo and Juliet while Michael Woodwood took control of Twelfth Night and the cast switched roles for each performance.

Company manager and cast member David Davies praised the city’s ‘hardy’ theatre lovers for braving the elements to make history on the opening night.

He also hopes there will be many more productions staged in the Peace Gardens over the coming years.

“We had a fantastic time in Sheffield and were delighted at the enthusiasm of the audience,” he said. “Even a spot of rain couldn’t dampen their spirits and it was great to hear the applause and cheers as the curtain fell.

“It’s always exciting to perform traditional Shakespeare in unusual and interesting locations like the Peace Gardens.

“We thoroughly enjoyed it and hope to return next year. GB Theatre Company would like to say a big thank you to our friends and colleagues at Sheffield City Council who worked extremely hard to help make the event a success.”

Shipwrecks and stolen kisses on Italian balconies aren’t what you would normally expect to see in the Peace Gardens.

But with street brawls, hidden identities and forbidden romance, it proved a great night out in Sheffield city centre.

lRegular visitors Heartbreak Productions are back at the Botanical Gardens this week with Pride and Prejudice.

Jane Austen’s most popular classic, set in the village of Meryton, follows the story of five sisters’ amorous exploits.From the sweet and good-natured eldest daughter Jane down to the coquettish and petulant Lydia, the whole spectrum of women’s behaviour is examined in minute detail with Austen’s delicate yet intense observation.

Heartbreak’s fresh and contemporary adaptation from its writer in residence, David Kerby Kendall, highlights the wit, fun and absurdities of the characters, intermingled with period dance, music and song.

Pride and Prejudice runs from today (August 4) to Saturday and then next week the company will present Pinnochio from Thursday, August 11, to Sunday.