Twenty years… not a huge amount of time in the greater scheme of things, but we’re very proud of what we’ve achieved in those twenty years! Affiliation with the Royal Shakespeare Company, the public choice award for modern drama at the Swindon Fringe, multiple tours of Shakespeare’s most popular plays, taking our production of ‘Othello’ to Questors in London, touring ‘Goodnight Mister Tom’… the list goes on.
Of course, the last couple of years haven’t been exactly easy for anybody; we missed a year in the first lockdown and in 2021, for safety’s sake, we transferred to Stoke Fleming, in the middle of a field, for a production of ‘The Comedy of Errors’. But this year, our 20th Anniversary, we’re back at Dartmouth castle on Tuesday 19th – Saturday 23rd July, and we could not be happier!
When we were mulling over which of Will’s plays to perform in this anniversary year (and it seems obvious now, with the benefit of hindsight!), we asked ourselves how to best utilise the location in which we perform: it’s a castle; which of the plays is set in a castle and there you have it. Hamlet. We’ve actually been performing in ‘Elsinore’ for twenty years without really acknowledging the fact.
Hamlet – or to give it it’s full title, ‘The Tragedie of Hamlet, Prince of Denmarke’ – is quite possibly the most well-known, most oft-quoted and least seen of Shakespeare’s plays. Everyone knows something from the play: ‘Alas poor Yorick, I knew him Horatio’; ‘There’s something rotten in the state of Denmark’; ‘the lady doth protest too much, methinks’ – but our aim is, as ever, to make this play (and all the Shakespearean plays we produce at the castle) as accessible and enjoyable as possible. For everyone.
And that was Will’s greatest skill as storyteller (which is basically what he was, as well as being the greatest writer anytime, anywhere!) – he entertained the whole audience, from the folk in the cheap seats (the Groundlings – and they stood for the whole performance, usually in excess of four hours!) to the lords and ladies who paid an extra three pence for a cushion on which to sit and an uninterrupted view of the action. He understood his audience. He entertained…which what we aim to do with our productions.
And we couldn’t do any of this without an army, albeit a small army, of people working tirelessly to bring Shakespeare to life at Dartmouth castle. The actors, the backstage crew, the costumiers, the technicians, the front-of-house team, the directors, our amazing sponsors and friends and, most importantly of all, YOU, the audience. We couldn’t do it without any of you. So thank you.
Twenty years…wow. Who knows what the next twenty may bring, but we sincerely hope that we’ll still be here, breathing life into the Bard’s great works and, above all, telling fabulous stories. And entertaining audiences, obviously!