And so with the five show run of the Wivenhoe Open Air Shakespeare Company’s production of The Tempest coming to a close on Saturday evening at Broomgrove, there was just one more task to complete – the takedown of the set and to restore the Nature Garden to the exact same condition in which it was handed over.
Plus a little reminiscing was required as to all that has been achieved over the past five months, and some very kind audio recordings to complete the process of capturing this project from start to finish online.
The entire cast and crew was on back on site early on Sunday morning. The behind the scenes talk was of a late, late night, with the post-show production party celebrating the success of the return of outdoor Shakespeare to Wivenhoe.
This was a bleary-eyed post performance – I wasn’t entirely sure who was still wearing stage make-up and who had yet to rest their head. I think that the actors and crew have deserved one night of artistic indulgence following the final show on Saturday evening.
It was also wonderful to see so many other hyperlocal helping helps from those not directly involved in the production, but happy to help out with the clean up.
Having returned on four occasions to capture the progress of the Company, I saw the staging of The Tempest from the other side on Wednesday evening. All of those hit and miss sessions in the kitchen of the Congregational Hall were long since forgotten – I was transported out of the backstage production and into the appreciation from a punter’s front row point of view.
It was incredibly professional, calm and sometimes irresistibly funny.
I was surprised then to find out on Sunday that some of the most distinguished and commanding performers suffered badly from nerves ahead of the opening night. This certainly didn’t show in the performance, Sir.
“It was a real team effort. It’s great fun. Although you are terrified before you go on, afterwards you get a great buzz because you have been part of a successful effort. Every audience reacted differently. Overall the reaction was positive. The cast and the Directors – who were inspirational – came together.”
This collective form of working is certainly a feeling that other cast members also found.
“We’ve had brilliant Directors. You have to try new things. Doing Shakespeare is one of the best ways of trying a new type of acting.”
Michael Common, the leading man to Ellie’s Miranda added:
“We were very relaxed. We worked on it to have a good time. We developed as we went along with some guidance from Janita. We had some fun to see where we could go with it, and how it would turn out at the end. It all really came together in the last two weeks during dress rehearsals. We were all there in support of each other. You are so reliant on the rest of the cast to turn up and do their bit. The teamwork was fantastic.”
And so the question now comes down to one of what next?
Still smiling on Sunday morning was Sarah Rout following the success of her interpretation of the cheeky Trinculo.
“We’ve already said to Sheila and Jan, the Directors: we do not want to wait another eight years. We are hoping that next year there will be another Open Air Shakespeare in Wivenhoe.”
Speaking with some of the more mature members of the production crew, there is very much a sense of no one is getting any younger. Staging a five-show run of outdoor Shakespeare drains just as much energy as it does time.
The commitment to keep Shakespeare in Wivenhoe remains, but some extra energy is needed. The more ‘experienced’ folk were incredibly pleased that some young Wivenhoe talent was drawn out for the auditions. It is hoped that this youthful input will now be able to carry on with the project and continue to offer something unique in Wivenhoe each summer.
It takes a great amount of skill just to stage outdoor Shakespeare. The knowledge is there when it comes to production, prop creation and even how you go about financing and securing such a venture. What is needed now is the opportunity to pass these skills on.
Director Sheila Foster has been responsible for re-igniting the passion, alongside fellow Director Janita LeFerve:
“I think that Wivenhoe Open Air Shakespeare has taken on a life of its own. I think that if people want to do it enough then it will happen again. There is a building momentum that should make it happen again.”
As for Sheila’s final observation?
“I sat last night and just smiled all evening. I am very, very happy. We gathered outside the bat tent and we all raised a glass to William Shakespeare.”
A pox o’ your bottle! This can sack and drinking do.