Saturday, August 15, 2009

Much Ado About Nothing - Shakespeare in Lismore Castle

Last Monday night the long-awaited annual play from the touring UK company, Off the Ground, was held in the courtyard of Lismore Castle. This is their 15th year and they have been coming to Lismore for a number of years as part of their Irish open-air tour. They are a troupe from England who are extremely professional and innovative and they bring the classics to the masses, ensuring that their interpretations have universal appeal to all ages.

This year they did Shakespeare's great comedy, Much Ado About Nothing, but not as you know it! This was no mediaeval Italian court setting, rather it was a High Society 1930s setting, with tuxedos and floral frocks in abundance.

The evening can frequently be hijacked by our inclement weather, but this year we were lucky as it stayed warm and dry, if dull. So the blankets and umbrellas weren't needed, though they were brought along by the punters who knew - from bitter experience - to be prepared for all eventualities.

The audience come from far and wide, with many children who sit on the ground at the edge of the "stage". Many bring picnic hampers and lots of dainty crackers and cheese with wine, so posh nosh is much in evidence, as we try to recreate a mini-Glyndebourne experience in Lismore.

As I am always rushing after work my basket tends to have a mix of whatever snacks are around the house, and perhaps a stop at the shop en route for the sugar rush snacks favoured by whatever kids are coming along with teen daughter like packets of crisps - Tayto or Pringles - that crackle embarrassingly during the performance, bars of chocolate and pick'n'mix sweets, and cartons of orange juice. The girls brought a duvet and pillows to sit on, and wraps and sweatshirts to keep the midges at bay.

As you can see from the photos and video clip, the play was not as the Bard intended, with its modern setting and the interspersing with song and dance routines, but it is a perfect evening's entertainment, with everyone joining in the fun, and at the last dance the whole audience was up dancing with the cast. They remain true to the script and it all works - so you never really think that this was intended for an Italian Court setting, with aristocracy from that period.

The great thing about Off the Ground is that they really engage with the audience and make the often scary classics accessible to all. They are a young troupe and the same core members are now like old friends, and we look forward to the show every year. I have been introduced to Shakespeare plays that I would otherwise never have seen or known the storyline of, and many other greats as well. Last year's play was Cyrano de Bergerac, the year before The Merry Wives of Windsor, and others have included Twelfth Night, Robin Hood, Swing in The Willows, and King Arthur and the Round Table.

If they come your way, make the effort to see them as you will be richly rewarded. If it is in the setting like Lismore Castle or another of the eclectic settings they visit in Ireland, it's an added bonus. Either way, wrap up well, bring a bit of food and a drink, and sit back to enjoy a great evening.


La Tea Dah said...

What fun! I loved the video! Thanks for sharing with us!


Catherine said...

La Tea Dah - thanks for viewing the video - it is lovely! I have another on YouTube that I posted on my Facebook page if you like to look at it, it's after dark and quite different, in fact there are two, one song and dance and one a scene from the play. So plenty of variety!

Reader Wil said...

How wonderful! I think that Shakespeare would have enjoyed this performance, for he wrote for the common people in the first place.
I used to go to a place called Diever in Drenthe, where the whole village is involved in Shakespeare plays. They have an open air theatre in the wood. Every year they start rehearsing in January. Always another play. Some villagers do the technical jobs, others design the clothes, there is a very good translator, who writes the play in Dutch and even in the dialect of the village. And then of course there are the players, who perform year after year until they are replaced by a younger generation. It's a great and happy occasion.
Thank you for sharing this. I would have loved to see this play in your place!

Peggy said...

Hi Catherine,`it looks a great way to enjoy a play they and you were very lucky to have a nice evening to enjoy it.The video is really good and this method of bringing plays would interest young peole to see plays.If they ever come to Cork I will watch out for them.

Jeannette StG said...

Looks like it was a lot of fun and innovative! Judging from your new profile pic you have been out int the (Spanish) sun! Yes, after you have been away from blogging a while (moi aussi, because of the move) it's hard to get back into it!
I left a response to your comment on my blog that only people who know about the Dutch will understand:)

Catherine said...

Thanks for all the comments! It's always great to get feedback, and I do appreciate it.

Wil - I agree that Shakespeare himself would concur, he is a bit of a lad himself now that I have seen so many of his comedys I can see he had quite a sense of humour and was a tad rude in parts! Plays then were aimed at the common people anyway. That play in Diever sounds great - I must ask hubby if he knows of it (he's in Mozambique right now but will be back Sunday - visiting project villages for an Irish NGO we worked with way back). So this touring company here come back year after year, they are a part of the August landscape now. Glad you liked the post. You have some very evocative Dutch photos and places on your blog, wish I could get to read/see them all!

Schnitzel and the Trout said...

Catherine...thank you so much for stopping by my blog and commenting. The pattern can be found online in the USA. Not sure if they send overseas, but certainly worth a try.

Let me know if you have problems and maybe I can do something for you. I love castles and your posting makes me want to come visit. Susan

Catherine said...

Peggy - this company played on Sherkin Island and another Cork venue for a couple of days, their programme for Ireland is on their posters that I linked to in the post. They do the same venues year in year out, so they will be back next year I guess. You should really try to see them, their way of presenting the plays make them entertaining to all ages, and that makes for a great family evening's fun. I have been at all of their plays here for the past decade I would say. Glad you liked the video, I might even post the other two as they are so different, I did post them on YouTube so will add them to a new post or this one.

Catherine said...

Jeannette - thanks for that -I read your comment on my response to your post, makes sense! Yes I was in Spain (read the post on Barcelona some posts ago!) in July for 10 days, great break and wonderful weather, though they complain about the heat there and I have absolutely no sympathy as we are drowning in a miserable rainy Irish "summer" here ( which I have also ranted about in a blogpost recently!)
So yes, this play was very innovative and really worked in the modern 1930s setting, which I thought might be jarring. I guess it proves that Shakespeare is timeless and transcends the centuries!
I will reply to your Dutch comment in the email

Catherine said...

Susan - thanks for the link to the pattern - I will go check it out, could be a winter project for me! Glad you like the blog and the photos, we have a lot of castles here going way back centuries, we get a bit blasé about them all I suppose till we see them thru' visitor's eyes! They also love our green-ness, but that comes at a price - bad summers and too much rain!
Will try to visit your blog more regularly,it looks very interesting and different!