A night spent at Rutland Open Air Theatre watching a play by Stamford Shakespeare Company is magical and one not to be missed this summer.
The company present an annual season of plays in June, July and August in the beautiful grounds of Tolethorpe Hall just outside Little Casterton. It always proves popular and last year the company’s productions attracted more than 33,000 people.
This year the plays are Tom Jones, based on the novel by Henry Fielding, and well-known Shakespeare plays Romeo and Juliet and Henry V.
In Tom Jones, step back in time to the bawdy, fun-loving world of the 1700s with this hilarious romantic comedy. Adapted for the stage by Joan McAlpine, the play follows the life of Tom from his discovery as a babe in the bed of an honest, kind-hearted landowner, through his adolescent misdemeanours and on to the growing awareness of his attractiveness to the ladies of all ages.
But Tom’s youthful recklessness brings him not only into the arms of a number of amorous women but also to the condemned cell. As he is led to the gallows there is a great commotion - will he hang, or will he escape the noose to marry his only true love Sophia?
Romeo and Juliet is the greatest love story the world has ever known, set amid the feud between the Montagues and the Capulets. Taking place in Victorian England with the Capulets portrayed as a gypsy family and the Montagues as traditional landowners, the bitter conflict between the families forces Romeo and Juliet to conceal their passion.
The forbidden nature of their love leads to the inevitable tragedy. This tale of “a pair of star-crossed lovers” includes wild gypsy dancing and fortune-telling, murderous rivalry and thrilling sword fights.
2015 is the 600th anniversary of the battle of Agincourt and Stamford Shakespeare Company will be commemorating this famous victory with its final play, Henry V. Prince Hal, the playboy of 15th Century England turns military commander and statesman to defy the overwhelming odds of France on the bloody fields of Agincourt. Comedy, Romance, Treachery, Triumph and Disaster combine to paint a vivid picture of life and death in 15th century France and England.
All of the plays are sure to provide fantastic entertainment, come rain or shine. The raked 600-seat auditorium is protected from summer showers with a permanent canopy, making it the only theatre of its kind in Europe, and meaning that no performance is ever cancelled because of the rain.
But it faces an open air stage so even on hot summer days, the late evenings can turn cool so many of the audience come equipped with rugs to keep warm. This year the company has won a Big Lottery Fund grant, which means Tolethorpe will have a facelift with the windows repainted and the auditorium canopy and gantry repaired.
Theatre goers can enjoy a picnic - a Tolethorpe tradition - as the sun sets over the manor house and you can even order a ready prepared picnic by calling 01572 813303. Pre-prepared picnics must be ordered in advance and only a limited number are available on each night so order early to avoid disappointment.
Alternatively, you can enjoy a delicious buffet meal in the dining rooms of the historic Tolethorpe Hall. Choose from a varied selection of starters, followed by a choice of the hot dish of the day, or carved joints of meat, fresh fish and a selection of fresh salads.
There is a choice of desserts or an alternative of cheese, followed by coffee and mints. The menu changes frequently for regular visitors and costs £22.50.
Tickets for the plays are available now at a price of £13 for a Monday to Thursday or a Saturday matinee ticket, £15 for a Friday ticket and £18 for a Saturday evening ticket.
To book phone 01780 756133, visit www.stamfordshakespeare.co.uk, where there is also a full programme of dates, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively visit the box office at Stamford Arts Centre in St Mary’s Street.
Tolethorpe Youth Drama will be holding a theatre workshop based on Romeo and Juliet at Tolethorpe Hall on Saturday, May 16, from 9.30am until 3pm. The event is open to budding young actors aged between eight and 18 and will provide a varied programme of theatre activities, a backstage tour and an opportunity to meet with the director and cast of Romeo and Juliet.
The price of the workshop is £25. This includes a picnic lunch and a voucher for tickets to see a preview performance of the company’s production of the play.
To reserve a place, or for more information, e-mail Alison Bailey on email@example.com for a booking form or telephone Carol King on 01572 747364.