Guest Blog Post – Inn Theatre (Dartmouth Shakespeare Week)
Inn Theatre have been producing and performing Shakespeare at Dartmouth Castle since 2003 – this is our seventeenth at the castle, our twenty first Shakespeare, including tours, and, if you include some modern drama, our twenty ninth production overall. But let’s stick with the Shakespeare: it’s what we are renowned for and, truth be told, it’s what we love doing best!
There was a time in London when the theatres were all closed because of the plague or because the Lord Chancellor decreed that theatres were dens of vice. Most theatres of the time were situated on the South Bank of the Thames, a particularly unsavoury place, by all accounts; it’s where we get the expression ‘it’s all gone south’. So, Shakespeare took his company and toured his plays, many of which were performed outdoors: so he would, to some small degree, in all probability, recognise the set up we have at the castle.
Unlike modern theatres, the bulk of the audiences (the groundlings) at The Globe or The Swan or The Rose would look up at the stage – and so it is at Dartmouth Castle. We perform on several different levels and the audience watches from below; the stage is raked, rather than the seating. And what a venue it is; one of the most picturesque and atmospheric anywhere in the southwest – or so we’ve been told. And so we score another point on the ‘Shakespeare Approval Scale’.
We pride ourselves in the fact that all but one of our Shakespearean productions have been traditional in setting; the one exception being the 2015 production of ‘The Merry Wives of Windsor’ (written around 1594 and set in 1954) so even that wasn’t a truly ‘modern’ setting for the play…and it was excellent fun to perform with Jill Brock, that year’s director, doing an amazing job of bringing it all to life! When we say traditional, we mean that, for example, if we’re performing The Dream then the costuming and settings will be Athenian or this year it’s Macbeth, so the setting and costumes reflect twelfth century Scotland. All else is very much Elizabethan/Jacobean sets and costumes.
Detail is extremely important to us and we endeavour to make things as accurate as possible. You won’t see the soldiers wearing trainers or combatants wielding twentieth century daggers. A case in point is this year’s production and one of Lady Macbeth’s gowns. Our wardrobe mistress had a beautiful piece of shot-silk material she wanted to use, but wasn’t sure that it was in use at that time – remember, we’re talking twelfth century Scotland here. Much scouring of the interweb later and she discovered that, actually, shot-silk was made as early as seven hundred AD and that one of the gowns cited was a purple and yellow one worn on Lindisfarne in the 12th century. Exactly the colours of the material she had. Result: one beautiful gown and one very happy wardrobe mistress!
Audiences in Shakespeare’s day knew exactly what he was saying. They got the jokes, the double-entendre and the references to current events. It was, as live theatre should be, immediate and entertaining. So to some degree we can understand where people are coming from when they say ‘I don’t get it’ ‘It leaves me cold’ ‘It’s a foreign language’. But (and we’ve also been told that this is what we do best) we strive beyond belief to make Shakespeare understandable, current and, above all, fun! Even if it is a tragedy (the play, not the performance!)
Have a look at our website and read some of the (unsolicited) comments from members of past audiences. The number of times we’ve heard people saying, as they leave a show, something along the lines of: ‘I actually understood what was going on’ ‘Didn’t think I’d enjoy Shakespeare, but this was brilliant’. If just one person goes away with a new-found understanding/enjoyment of Shakespeare, then we’re more than happy.
Work for this year’s production (did I tell you it’s Macbeth?) is going on apace and we’re also in the throes of getting a tour together for later in the year. We’ve managed to get the majority of the cast from the 2017 production of Othello back together, and that will be hitting the road sometime in October. We’ll keep you posted.
We’ve also re-launched our Friend’s initiative. It takes a huge amount of money – not to mention time and effort from a relatively small group of people – to put these shows on each year. You could become a Friend for a relatively small amount. You get tickets too and a whole bunch of other stuff and a, free-of-charge, happy, fluffy glow knowing you’ve helped us keep Will and live theatre on the up. Drop us a line for more details.
So what would Shakespeare think? We hope he would approve of what we’re doing and the way in which we do it. Come and find out for yourselves.
Macbeth is on at Dartmouth Castle from 23rd – 27th July. Tickets are available online from our website: www.theinntheatrecompany.co.uk where you can also find out more about being a Friend and you can get physical tickets from:
Compass Office Supplies, Higher Street, Dartmouth OR Compass Bookshop, Lower Street, Dartmouth.