A FEW intrepid summer touring theatre companies have leapt at the chance to do their thing on the green sward, even in this year of Covid 19, so there is now a chance to see some open-air shows at a venue near you.
Four of the 11 companies that traditionally tour the south and south west – Folksy Theatre, The Handlebards, Illyria and The Pantaloons – have done that thing that actors are trained for … fast response to calls for entertainment from an audience, and this year one denied live theatre for so long.
The Pantaloons have two shows, Sherlock Holmes and Twelfth Night, and they will be touring from 27th July to 17th September. See Twelfth Night at Castle Hill, Filleigh on 6th August, Midleney Manor at Langport on 7th August, Tapeley Park near Barnstaple on 26th August, Knighton House near Blandford Forum on 27th August and Clearbook near Plymouth on 17th September. Sherlock Holmes will be visiting the south and west at Churchinford Cricket Ground on 27th August, Midleney Manor at Langport on 5th September and ending the tour at Highcliffe Castle on Thursday 10th September. For full details visit the website, https://thepantaloons.co.uk
Illyria will be taking its production of The Wind in the Willows to at least 26 venues between 7th August and 26th September, with new dates being added in to the schedule. So far in the FTR area they will be at Lapford Mill near Crediton on Saturday 8th August for two performances at 3 and 5pm, Castle Gardens at Sherborne on Sunday 30th August at 5 and 7.30pm and Corsley near Warminster on Sunday 6th September at 2 and 6pm. If you fancy seeing Mr Toad and his chums at the country’s most spectacular open air arena, Illyria will be at the Minack in Cornwall from 22nd to 26th September. Visit the company website, www.illyria.co.uk for full details. Tickets MUST be booked in advance for the 2020 shows.
Folksy Theatre will be touring The Taming of the Shrew from 8th to 31st August. See the show at Forde Abbey near Chard on Wednesday 12th, Holme for Gardens near Wareham on Friday 14th, the Marine Theatre at Lyme Regis on Saturday 15th, Frome ECOS at the Merlin on Thursday 27th and Burrow Farm Gardens near Axminster on Friday 28th, all starting at 7pm. See www.folksytheatre.co.uk for full details of bookings.
The Handlebards, whose USP is travelling between venues on their bicycles, are touring Romeo and Juliet in the evening and Gnora the Gnome’s Daytime Disco in the afternoon, from 31st July to 20th September. See them in the south west at Bridport Arts Centre on 7th September (4.30 and 8pm), Marine Theatre Lyme Regis on 10th September (4.30 and 8pm), at Castle Hill, Filleigh near Barnstaple on 12th September (3 and 7pm), The Hall at Bradford-on-Avon on 13th September (3pm and 7pm) and The Bishop’s Palace at Wells on 15th September (Romeo and Juliet at 7pm). Visit www.handlebards.com for details.
Remember that in his new world, everything except the fun, excitement and surprise of the shows and the skill of the companies will have changed.
All performances are in the open air and you will be asked to arrange your seating in family groups and bubbles. It will take longer to seat audiences, so get to the venues in plenty of time.
Social distancing will be observed and masks will be a good idea for entrances and exits. Follow the instructions of the staff on duty.
There will be no intervals.
Hand sanitising stations will be provided, as will toilets, but audiences are asked not to use the portaloos unless necessary.
You must book in advance, so don’t wait for the weather and turn up on the night – you won’t get in!
And of course, as always, keep your fingers crossed and offer prayers to the weather gods for warm, dry nights for these productions. Remember, these are the actors leading the vanguard out of the lockdown towards traditional live theatre again.