From Traquair to Stratford-Upon-Avon

Traquair House to celebrate Shakespeare in May 2012 with the RSC'21st Lady of Traquair with Gordon Hibbert, Chair of Scottish Community Drama Association (Right) with actors from Shakespear's Romeo and Juliet (playing Romeo and Juliet)
Traquair House to celebrate Shakespeare in May 2012 with the RSC'21st Lady of Traquair with Gordon Hibbert, Chair of Scottish Community Drama Association (Right) with actors from Shakespear's Romeo and Juliet (playing Romeo and Juliet)
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IT’S only days since Shakespeare at Traquair ended its annual run of promenade shows but plans have already been unveiled for a 2012 festival which could see the medieval house’s amateur theatre group perform in the great bard’s home town.

The Traquair Shakespeare Festival is the only such event in Scotland next year and will run as part of the Cultural Olympiad’s celebrations of the English playwright’s life and career.

And the three-day event will also form part of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Open Stages programme which aims to bring together professional and amateur theatre.

The collaboration will lead to a once-in-a-lifetime chance for five groups of unpaid actors, who will be picked to perform at Stratford-Upon-Avon for the World Shakespeare Festival.

Traquair owner Catherine Maxwell Stuart said this opportunity is “very exciting” for Shakespeare at Traquair, which will present Twelfth Night in 2012 under director Richard Forsyth.

She added: “The Traquair Shakespeare Festival is on the back of the success of 16 years of Shakespeare at Traquair, and also the Cultural Olympiad attached to the Olympics.

“Open Stages will see professionals working with amateur theatre groups across the country, including the National Theatre of Scotland and Scottish Community Drama Association.

“We are hoping to work with all of these organisations and pull it together for the festival in the last weekend of May and end some amateur actors’ fear of Shakespeare.”

The celebrations shall include theatrical workshops run by RSC professionals, with amateur groups across Scotland invited to attend.

There will also be medieval music concerts, Shakespeare-related productions and a range of Elizabethan events.

Twelfth Night performances will run at the same time and will include new music commissioned from locally-based musicians, as well as complementary scenes surrounding the production which will be based on The Prince of Love.

Ms Maxwell Stuart believes Traquair and its Shakespeare productions have provided mutual benefits to one another since 1995.

She said: “It has been fantastic. It is a genuine community production. It has a lot of young people and it is a really nice way of experiencing Traquair in a completely different way.

“The grounds are very conducive to outdoor productions. It’s a nice way of watching Shakespeare instead of sitting in a concentrated space and having to concentrate on every single word.

“It is something about being outside and being taken around the grounds that make it a great experience.”

Gordon Hibbart, chairman of the SCDA added: “This is a heaven-sent opportunity for all parties to work together to enjoy the benefits of workshops with professional actors in the surroundings of Traquair.

“Some amateur clubs have shied away from Shakespeare and found it too challenging or not for them.

“But this is a wonderful chance to get some professional guidance.

“I have done quite a bit of amateur acting in my time but never Shakespeare and I am looking for an opportunity to get involved.”

RSC artistic director Michael Boyd said of the Open Stages programme: “There are more than 5,000 amateur theatre groups in the UK with over a million people taking part each year.

“Theatre is definitely alive and kicking and it seems madness to ignore the passion and creativity on our doorstep without harnessing it.

“Open Stages is slap bang in the middle of our ambitions to connect people with Shakespeare and celebrate live theatre.”

Visit www.shakespeare-at-traquair.co.uk or www.rsc.org.uk/openstages for more information.