Last year they were having to turn people away. This year they have been rewarded with nearly 200 more seats a night.
GB Theatre Company are delighted to be performing William Shakespeare’s classic farce The Comedy of Errors and his great tragedy Macbeth in The Collector Earl’s Garden at Arundel Castle for the Arundel Festival.
As company artistic director Barrie Palmer says, Arundel has proved itself to be a great venue for the company. Two years ago, the weather was awful, but still people turned out in strong numbers. Last year took it all to the next level: “Last year we did 650 people a night, and we were completely sold out. The castle were turning people away. The Duke this year has increased our seating, so we should have nearly another couple of hundred seats, which will be great.
“It is just such an amazing place to play, and we are so well looked after at Arundel. They are so supportive towards us there. And now we are back with 12 amazing actors again.”
Among them is Barrie himself who stresses he is just doing the small parts. As Duncan he’s soon bumped off in Macbeth before returning as a doctor and a messenger. In The Comedy of Errors, he is Egeon, the father of the two sets of twins.
“Last year we were trying to think what to do this year. There are so many great plays, and then you have to think which one to put it with. And then I thought of The Comedy of Errors. When I was at the RSC, we did it. And then I thought Macbeth would go well with it so that we could cross-cast.
“Certainly for Macbeth, I wanted some spectacular fight scenes. We have got the three witches on at the stage at the start, but we have also got everybody on stage doing stage combat. We have got the whole lot out there, everybody getting involved in these amazing fight sequences that we are going to have. There are going to be some great moments in the show. I was so pleased when we started putting it together, and the stage manager came up to me and said ‘This is going to be fantastic!’ We have got new costumes, wonderful fighting... It is all coming together brilliantly.”
With the passing years, the company has confirmed its own particular style: “We have no scenery. We just have two large wooden boxes and lots of hand props, and we also have lots of music on stage. Virtually all the actors play live music.
“And we always have traditional costumes. We do it the traditional way. My whole ethos is to employ actors and stage crew and take Shakespeare to places that might not necessarily see it. The main thing is using the text, the actors, the costumes and the venues just as Shakespeare would have done. That’s all you need. That’s what stands out. I have seen Romeo & Juliet in jeans and T-shirts. That was the Globe. I live in Stratford. I see lots of Shakespeare, and I know that the best possible way to do it is to do it the traditional way and to make it accessible. I went to a secondary modern school. I read a bit of Shakespeare but I didn’t understand it. It wasn’t until very much later in life that I learnt to understand it and how fantastic it is. You have got to make it understandable. We have kids of five and six come along and are totally enthralled.”
Performances are at Arundel Castle on Thursday, August 21, Friday, August 22 and Saturday, August 23.