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Water Lane Theatre Company performs Twelfth Night as open-air picnic production in Monastery Garden in Bishop's Stortford




Audiences are lapping up the return to Bishop's Stortford next month of open-air live performance.

Water Lane Theatre Company is staging a contemporary picnic production of William Shakespeare's romantic comedy Twelfth Night in Monastery Garden from Thursday to Saturday, July 1-3.

Its Saturday night performance has sold out, having reached its capacity of 150 – and it has extended the run by adding a Sunday matinee on July 4.

Water Lane, the Stortford amateur dramatics group which this year celebrates its 70th anniversary, has made a habit of staging well-received summer Shakespeare shows at the picturesque Monastery Garden, behind St Michael's and St Joseph's churches in Windhill, in recent years.

The sequence began with A Midsummer Night's Dream in 2016, was followed by Love's Labour's Lost in 2017 and continued with Much Ado About Nothing in 2019.

And the company is meeting people's frustrated desires to escape abroad to the sun, sea and sand by switching the action in Twelfth Night from Illyria to... Marbella on Spain's Costa del Sol!

Twelfth Night is the third open-air Shakespeare production Richard Pink has directed for Water Lane Theatre Company in five years
Twelfth Night is the third open-air Shakespeare production Richard Pink has directed for Water Lane Theatre Company in five years

Director Richard Pink, who was also at the helm of A Midsummer Night's Dream and Love's Labour's Lost, said: "So the Government don't want us to go on holiday this year, but that doesn't stop Water Lane bringing Marbs to Bishop’s Stortford.

"This unique picnic production sees Shakepeare’s much-loved tale transported to an upmarket resort in Marbella.

"Love, lust, relationships, drunkenness, shipwrecks and mistaken identities abound. Anyone coming to watch can expect comedy, music and a fair amount of audience involvement."

The rom-com, believed to have been written around 1601-02 as a Twelfth Night's entertainment for the close of the Christmas season, centres on twins Viola and Sebastian, who are separated in a shipwreck.

Love triangle: Nancy Jones as Countess Olivia, Matthew Juggins as Duke Orsino and Hannah Juggins as Viola
Love triangle: Nancy Jones as Countess Olivia, Matthew Juggins as Duke Orsino and Hannah Juggins as Viola

Viola – disguised as a page, Cesario – falls in love with Duke Orsino of Illyria, who in turn is in love with the wealthy Countess Olivia, who mourns the death of her own brother. Upon meeting Viola, Countess Olivia falls in love with her, thinking she is a man.

In the comic subplot, Olivia's drunken uncle Sir Toby Belch, Sir Andrew Aguecheek, gentlewoman Maria and Feste the jester conspire to make Olivia's pompous steward, Malvolio, believe that the countess has fallen for him.

The cast of 17 is headed by husband and wife Matthew and Hannah Juggins as Orsino and Viola, with Nancy Jones as Olivia.

Anyone with concerns about any Covid implications can be assured by the facts that Shakespeare (1564-1616) lived and wrote through several plague epidemics which ravaged London, and his plays were made for open-air spaces to be heard by large groups of people, even if they are spread out – plus, the vast majority of the scenes inherently observe the Rule of Six!

* Evening performances of Twelfth Night begin at 7pm (gates open 6.15pm). The Sunday matinee is at 2pm. Audience members are invited to take their own picnic, chairs and/or rugs. Tickets for the Thursday and Friday evenings and Sunday afternoon are £5.50 from the Tourist Information Centre in Market Square or online from https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/waterlane. The production will be supporting Isabel Hospice.



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