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Stamford Shakespeare Company opens 2021 season at Rutland open-air theatre in Tolethorpe

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Actors are set to tread the boards once more as Stamford Shakespeare Company raises the curtain on its 2021 summer season at Tolethorpe.

The pandemic put paid to the plays last year, but now the Rutland open-air theatre will return with postponed productions of Love’s Labour’s Lost by William Shakespeare and The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde.

Unfortunately, the cast cannot continue with Romeo and Juliet due to “the passionate nature of the play” but are substituting the production with Humble Boy by Charlotte Jones.

Humble Boy. Photo: Red and Round
Humble Boy. Photo: Red and Round

Similarly, Tolethorpe Youth Drama has swapped William Golding’s Lord of the Flies for a production of DNA by Dennis Kelly.

Caroline Stephenson, chairman of Stamford Shakespeare Company, said: “Everyone is really excited and looking forward to opening up the theatre again and sharing the incredible experience of live performance.

“Rutland’s open-air theatre plays a hugely important part in so many people’s summer and I cannot wait to welcome everyone back. We are so lucky to have this theatre on our doorstep.

The Importance of Being Earnest. Photo: Red and Round
The Importance of Being Earnest. Photo: Red and Round

“I would like to thank everyone for the incredible support and generosity we received, which has enabled us to survive this crisis.

“The challenges for theatres across the country are enormous but we are looking ahead with enthusiasm to a summer where we once again perform on our beautiful stage.”

In August last year the Mercury announced the launch of the ‘Save Your Theatre’ campaign for readers to help Stamford Shakespeare Company raise £240,000 to cover lost ticket sales due to the coronavirus pandemic.

It was met by ‘overwhelming support’. Caroline explained: “It really has been a rollercoaster of a year for us, from March 16, 2020, when we took the sad decision to postpone the summer season, to the excitement of today and announcing the dates for the new 2021 season.

Caroline Stephenson. Photo: Red and Round
Caroline Stephenson. Photo: Red and Round

“As the devasting effect of the pandemic rolled on, and we realised that a whole year of no revenue was going to create a huge challenge for the company, we launched our ‘Save Your Theatre’ campaign. This turned out to be one of the highlights of a very difficult year.

“Firstly, the membership came on board and rallied round to support the initiative, selling homegrown vegetables, running half marathons, collecting donations for the car boot sale, to name but a few.

“And then the response from our patrons – it was staggering. The Save Your Theatre fundraising received over £50,000 and some of the letters of support I received, literally made me cry.

“I discovered Stamford Shakespeare Company has an enormous support network and I cannot thank everyone enough. I also believe the massive response was instrumental in showing how well loved the theatre is and helped us in becoming a successful recipient of a Cultural Recovery Fund grant. The combination of the fundraising and the grant has ensured our survival.”

Love's Labour's Lost. Photo: Red and Round
Love's Labour's Lost. Photo: Red and Round

Caroline added that they are ‘proceeding with optimism’ and looking forward to opening the theatre up to audiences this summer.

The 2021 season is due to begin on June 8 and finish on August 28 with the theatre’s 500-seat auditorium reduced to 251 seats per performance to accommodate social distancing. People will also be asked to wear a face covering.

To raise the capacity for each show, the company is putting on more matinees in addition to the usual evening performances.

Caroline added: “Whilst we understand that the timeline for opening up theatres remains contingent on the government’s four-stage plan continuing as planned, we are proceeding with optimism and look forward to welcoming everyone back to your theatre this summer.”

Key dates:

From Monday (March 29) anyone who bought tickets last year and donated the price to help save the theatre from closure will be contacted with the opportunity to buy new tickets. Those who held on to their tickets will also be contacted about receiving replacement tickets.

On April 12, the box office will open to Friends of Stamford Shakespeare Company for a week of priority booking.

On April 19 it will open to all.

Love’s Labour’s Lost will open on June 8, Humble Boy on June 15, The Importance of Being Earnest on July 6 and DNA on July 12.

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