Move over Canterbury Residents Group; it’s time for some real drama…
The Canterbury Shakespeare Festival returns from July – August 2019, bringing comedies, tragedies and everything in between to the green pastures of Canterbury’s parks and fields. Keep an ear out for the pitter-patter of iambic pentameter, or the soft crumple of an Elizabethan ruff. This summer’s performances will include The Merry Wives of Windsor, Hamlet, and Mary Stuart among others. Now in its fifth year of producing Shakespearean productions, CSF has seventeen shows under their belt, performing in beautiful outdoor locations all over Canterbury such as the Dane John Gardens, Greyfriars Gardens, The Canterbury Tales, St. Augustine’s Abbey, and the University of Kent campus.
We spoke to Antonia Kasoulidou to find out more about what’s in store for 2019.
Why do you think Shakespeare is so enduring and popular? Do you think Shakespeare will always be relevant to audiences?
Shakespeare has always been popular due to his contribution to English Literature and Language. Words and phrases he created and used in his plays and sonnets are heavily interwoven into our speech and everyday language to the extent that we can’t escape the impact that he has had.
I think he will always be relevant to audiences due to the fact they’re so versatile. His plays and sonnets are so universal. They have been performed in different settings, cultures, languages and manage to resonate with audiences throughout the world. I, personally, imagine in the next century people will be performing them “set in the 21st-century” because that’s the beauty of his work – it can be adapted in so many different ways and still remain relevant and loved by people.
What drew you to Canterbury as a setting for the Festival?
Benjamin Chamberlain, the founder of our festival, was a student studying at the University of Kent. He had originally come from Cambridge and had a love for the Cambridge Shakespeare Festival and the significance it had in that area. He wanted to transfer that to Canterbury, bringing accessible theatre to the community and the general public. So with a group of his friends and his family, he created the Canterbury Shakespeare Festival, which has evolved and progressed into a larger and more established event. His passion for Shakespeare and vision for the festival has propelled us over the years and, though he has since moved on, it remains with us as we carry on.
What makes it work is the beautiful scenic venues available. Over the past five years, we have had the pleasure of working with stunning locations such as Dane John Gardens, Greyfriar Gardens, Canterbury Tales, Tyler Hill, St. Augustine’s Abbey and University of Kent campus grounds. This year we are looking forward to working with new breathtaking venues locations such as Canterbury Christ Church University, The Beaney and St Stephen’s Church (our first indoor performance) as well as returning to some of our favourite places.
You perform a lot outdoors – do you feel it changes the dynamic?
I think it changes the dynamic completely. Shakespeare’s plays were originally performed at open-roofed Globe Theatre in London. A lot of his plays are set outdoors, with secret night-time discussions in the forest grass (A Midsummer Night’s Dream) or long treks made by his characters setting off on an adventure (As You Like It). Viola and Olivia’s first conversation in Twelfth Night was outside in a garden. There is almost a tradition set in England, where you go to see Shakespeare in the summer, bringing along a deck chair to sit outside in the beautiful sun. It’s what makes places like the Globe so popular; it draws on the tradition and history of Shakespearean plays performed outside.
It’s also more challenging and freeing for an actor. I’ve personally performed in productions for three years of this festival and there is no greater feeling than being outside and having that freedom to explore and work with a minimalistic set outside. There’s not a massive set, sound system, lighting set-up or stage to hide behind. There is a closeness, an intimacy with the audience. You are just left with the purity of the script and the director’s vision. Most of the best Shakespearean adaptations I have seen were outside.
Do you work with the community in Canterbury?
We have provided Shakespearean Workshops to both the University of Kent and Canterbury Christ Church University and are currently setting up an official workshop opportunity to provide to schools and colleges in the Kent region. Last year we managed to arrange an Activities Day aimed at the local children of Canterbury to go on a treasure hunt, meeting some of Shakespeare’s characters along the way. This year we are excited to be back at The Beaney with another treasure hunt involving many exciting workshops. We have been lucky to work with Duncan Woodruff, from Sword and Scoundrel, who is qualified in stage combat and has provided a workshop for members of the community throughout the years.
What do you think is important about community theatre?
There is an abundance of community theatre throughout Canterbury such as with the incredible work being done by University of Kent Players, Canterbury Players and the fantastic schemes set up by The Marlowe and Gulbenkian Theatre. Theatre allows people to feel, laugh and react to a vast array of emotions and themes portrayed on a stage in front of them. We believe community theatre is important due to the fact, more often than not, it is on a voluntary basis. People are there because they have a love and a passion for performing and creating theatre.
One of our most important features for our festival is the free show that we provide yearly. We believe in making theatre accessible to everyone and anyone. Last year we had the massive success of Romeo and Juliet, performing to over a thousand people in the well-known venue of Dane John Gardens. This year we are enthusiastic about working with Canterbury Christ Church University to perform Timon of Athens as our free performance of the season.
Tickets are now available through our website www.canterburyshakespeare.co.uk
Want to get involved? Ask a question? Sponsor us? Any enquiries can be made through our email firstname.lastname@example.org
The festival will be running from 19th July till 11th August 2019.
Timon of Athens (this year’s Free Show), directed by Caitlin Welch, a CCCU alumni, will be on the 19th, 20th, 21st, 28th July and 4th, 11th.
Lear (this year’s Experimental Show), directed by Mabel Chambers, a UKC alumni, will be on during the: 23rd, 24th, 30th, 31st July at St. Stephen’s Hall & 6th, 7th of August at The Beaney.
Hamlet, directed by Elliot Huxtable, will be on the 25th, 26th, 27th July at Greyfriar’s Gardens.
The Merry Wives of Windsor, directed by Elle Sutcliffe, a current UKC student, will be on the 1st, 2nd and 3rd of August at Tyler Hill.
Mary Stuart, directed by Ollie Graveson and Andrew Wilson, will be on the 9th and 10th of August at Eliot Courtyard, University of Kent.