Now approaching its 16th year, Dartmouth Shakespeare Week has become one of the most important annual cultural events in South Devon. Since 2002 when the Inn Theatre Company (ITC) was founded, over 18,000 tickets have been sold and well over £10,000 has been raised for charitable causes.
In case you were wondering, the company’s name comes from the Cherub Inn in Dartmouth, where the founding members were enjoying a drink when the idea was hatched.
Let’s begin with a quick review of the Inn Theatre Company’s recent productions.
For 2015’s Dartmouth Shakespeare Week, the Inn Theatre Company performed the Merry Wives of Windsor, which was ambitious for a couple of reasons: firstly, in the choice of play, which is one of Shakespeare’s lesser-known works, and, secondly, because of the ‘modernised’ (if that’s the right word) 1950s setting.
‘The Merry Wives of Windsor’: Photograph by Keith Gould
Still, director Jill Brock’s interpretation of what she called ‘Shakespeare’s sit-com’ delighted audiences with its anarchic energy and spirit. There were also sublime performances particularly from Gina Carter and Shaunagh Radcliffe as the titular Merry Wives, not to mention Max Brandt as the scheming Sir John Falstaff.
In 2016, the Inn Theatre Company went from one of Shakespeare’s most obscure works to arguably his best-loved of all. Romeo and Juliet, featuring a plethora of young actors new to the stage, was an ambitious but ultimately successful choice, playing to full audiences between 26th and 30th July.
Romeo and Juliet was directed by Jon Miles, who regular attendees will recognise from his performance in the titular role of King Lear at Dartmouth Shakespeare Week 2013.
Dartmouth Shakespeare Week 2017
This year, the Inn Theatre Company will be performing Othello. Casting has been completed for the production, which will be directed by Max Brandt.
The play will run from Tuesday 25th to Saturday 29th July 2017. Tickets are usually made available online and from Dartmouth Tourist Information Centre (please check back for details when confirmed).
South Devon’s not-so-well-kept secret…
Over the past few years, word of the ITC’s prowess at performing the Bard has spread to the extent that invitations to tour regionally have begun to arrive in the group’s email inbox. To accommodate them, Theatre Hub, a professional offshoot of the ITC, was formed in 2015 and the two groups co-produced an early Summer tour of Twelfth Night in 2016, performing in the open air at Avon Mill Garden Centre (Loddiswell), Torre Abbey and Pecorama (near Seaton in east Devon).
This year will see another co-production, this time of The Tempest, which will be touring in the spring of 2017.
A Royal connection
Another indication of the esteem in which Dartmouth Shakespeare Week is held came in 2014, when Michael Corbidge, senior voice and text consultant to the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), agreed to become the group’s patron. When I interviewed Michael in 2015 he told me:
“I love this company. It’s a very established company. It has a massive feel for Shakespeare and a passion for it. I love open air work. Of course, [Dartmouth Castle] is a spellbinding setting on the cliff-side. You’ve got this beautiful backdrop of the water and the town behind. I think they’re really focused in their work and really clear about what they want. All of that bodes incredibly well.”
Having worked all over the world with amateur groups and professional performers from Bryn Terfel to Ralph Fiennes, Michael had little time for snobbery about ‘am-dram’:
“I come from an amateur world. I was an amateur actor. I am passionate about making theatre whether you’re amateur or professional. I see very little difference between amateur and professional theatre. Good work is good work, however you’re producing it.”
Last year, Michael was back in South Devon, helping the ITC prepare for their forthcoming production.
Why not time your South Devon holiday this year to coincide with Dartmouth Shakespeare Week? Explore our range of luxury holiday cottages in and around Dartmouth here.
Can’t come this August? take a look at what’s on in Dartmouth during the rest of the year.