Arundel Festival stalwarts GB Theatre Company return to the Collector Earl’s Garden at Arundel Castle once again for another double dose of the Bard.
This year, they are offering As You Like It and Romeo & Juliet (August 26 and 27). Established in 2010, by Gillian Roca and Barrie Palmer, the company has been enjoying its seventh summer of touring and is looking forward to its seventh visit to Arundel.
“Usually it is the last place on tour,” says Barrie, “though this year there is a possibility of going to Hong Kong in October. But we always see Arundel as the pinnacle, and it just works so well. We love the space there, the way the Duke and Duchess have created the Earl’s Garden, the way it is laid out, the backdrop, the view, the atmosphere. It is just a lovely area there. Last year we had a bit of a slow start because of the rain! But after 15 minutes we were fine.
“ We are obviously always trying to find something that will get people out in the evening. They want to be entertained. I like the history plays, but we couldn’t go out with the history plays. Everybody knows Romeo & Juliet, and lots of schools are studying it. We try to do workshops on it as well. You can read a play, but actually seeing it is something very different. The guy who is my fight director is also the fight director at the Bristol Old Vic theatre school, and he has worked out some great fights for both the plays.
“Obviously Romeo & Juliet is a tragedy and As You Like It is a comedy, and it is also a great story. I am playing the nice duke who gets banished by his brother. You have got all this family conflict in As You Like It, but there is also so much lovely comedy, and you have also got Rosalind who is the largest female part in Shakespeare’s works. She dresses as a man to hide herself from Orlando even though she loves him… and to me, that is Blackadder and Bob! I am sure that’s where it came from!
“I think As You Like It pairs well with Romeo & Juliet, and it also cross-casts well with Romeo & Juliet. I have got ten actors for the two shows. I have always really, really loved As You Like It. I did it with the RSC and I also did it with another company. We do get a lot of people that come to see both our plays. Last year when we were at Chepstow, we had people that had not booked for both come and see the matinee and then decide to stay for the second one. It’s great.” Even so, Barrie makes no bones about it: it’s tough making ends meet when you are touring Shakespeare: “We never even break even. We have made a loss every year. It is not easy. I have got a police pension, and we take out loans. That’s how we cope.
“A couple of years ago we were recommended to Norwich Cathedral, and we went there for a couple of years and it went very well. We made lots of money and then a new guy came in and without telling us decided he wanted a change and at a stroke of a pen that cost us twenty grand. Now there is a new guy again, and he is coming to see us with a view to us coming back next year.”
5.30pm castle grounds open for picnics; 7.30pm performances start. Tickets on www.gbtheatrecompany.com.
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