The idea of putting on an outdoor performance of a Shakespeare play was conceived in New York’s Central Park in the 1950s – and the event’s popularity has done nothing but rise ever since. A portion of the tickets for the event in New York are free and it’s not unusual to see New Yorkers queue for hours to get a ticket. Actors including Anne Hathaway, Meryl Streep and Patrick Stewart have all starred in productions there and legendary actor Al Pacino is set to feature in this summer’s production of ‘The Merchant of Venice’.
As the Bard’s birthplace, Shakespeare’s works have always been popular in the UK and with most trends, the concept of Shakespeare in the Park soon spread across the pond from the USA, with Cardiff having it’s fair share.
For the last two years I’ve been to see the Lord Chamberlain’s Men theatre company at Cardiff Castle. The Lord Chamberlain’s Men was founded in 2004. Named after Shakespeare’s original troupe of travelling players, the group aims to present bold, clear and dynamic productions that excite and engage the audience. Having experienced two of it’s productions, I can say that it definitely fulfills that pledge.
The actors perform in the style of Shakepeare’s time – a cast of men playing multiple parts, including women, which often adds to the comedy. Past productions include the comedies Much Ado About Nothing and Twelfth Night.
This year The Lord Chamberlain’s Men travel the UK with The Tempest, Shakespeare’s last play. The production will be at Cardiff Castle on July 1st and 2nd.
If past years are anything to go by, expect to see something magical as the company performs with the Castle as a dramatic backdrop. The audience is encouraged to bring a picnic and low seats or picnic blankets and the Castle Cafe’s facilities remain open for the duration of the show. It’s a very civilised way to spend an evening.
But this isn’t the only outdoor Shakespeare event in Cardiff. The Everyman Theatre company also offers it’s ‘Shakepeare in the Moonlight’ series at the Museum of Welsh Life in st Fagans. This year it’s offering the comedy Much Ado About Nothing from July 7th-17th. I’ve never seen a play here, but following the success of the Cardiff Castle events, I’ve decided to give this one a try as well.
This summer’s long range weather forecast has promised a scorcher, so expect to take a chiller for that wine! But I have also been to these outdoor performances in the rain, where the actors carried on regardless and the spectators huddled under giant golf umbrellas. It was just as enjoyable (apart from the soggy shoes), so don’t let the weather put you off.
I’d love to hear your thoughts, and let me know if you recommend any similar outdoor events or plays. Reviews of the above performances to follow in the summer.