Theatre in the Fields features comedian Simon Brodkin, actress Jessamy Stoddart and West End star Oliver Savile
A celebration of theatre in all its forms returns to the countryside near Bishop’s Stortford on Saturday (July 20).
The second Theatre in the Fields at Brook Cottage Farm riding school in Furneux Pelham – which on July 6 hosted the BrookFest music festival – will feature more than 12 hours of drama, comedy, song, dance, music and film on four stages.
From West End stars to workshops, monologues to musicals, comedy to cabaret and puppetry to poetry, the theatre festival is sure to provide something to delight everyone.
Comedian Simon Brodkin, who performs both on the stand-up circuit and in comedy TV series, is one of the festival’s headline acts.
The 41-year-old is renowned for his high-profile pranks, whose targets have included Donald Trump, Theresa May and FIFA president Sepp Blatter.
In comedy circles, he is best known for playing cheerful chav character Lee Nelson, and appeared on the BBC TV series Lee Nelson’s Well Good Show and Lee Nelson’s Well Funny People.
At Theatre in the Fields, Brodkin – who studied medicine at university in Manchester and worked as a doctor in the city’s hospitals – will be performing his stand-up show as part of the comedy segment, hosted by Laughing Bishops Comedy Club founder and compere Paddy Lennox.
Comedian Abigail Carter-Simpson, who attended St Mary’s Catholic School in Stortford and then trained at the Guildford School of Acting, will be Brodkin’s supporting act.
Since entering stand-up, Abigail has made it to the semi finals of the Amused Moose Comedy Awards the last two years and the quarter finals of 2019’s Musical Comedy Awards.
Sexy Lamp, presented by Katie Arnstein, will also delight comedy fans.
The actress, who discovered that named, speaking and fully clothed roles were hard to come by in the world of showbusiness, combines jokes, original songs and storytelling to shine a light on how ridiculous the industry can be. Her act has won the Pleasance Pick of the Vault 2019 Show of the Week at the Vault Festival 2019, as well as numerous five-star reviews.
Of course, comedy will not be the only component of Theatre in the Fields.
Musician John Sweeney will take to the Stable Cinema stage to showcase his piano talent by playing along to a secret silent film.
John has played for silent film since 1990, starting at Riverside Studios in London and subsequently playing at many venues in Britain including the National Film Theatre, the Barbican Cinema, Broadway in Nottingham, the Imperial War Museum and Watershed in Bristol.
He has played for the British Silent Cinema Festival since its inception and has, since 2000, been a regular pianist at the Giornate del Cinema Muto in Pordenone, Italy.
West End performers joining the line-up for Stageys in the Stixx include Jessamy Stoddart, who played Liberty Savage in TV’s Hollyoaks after appearing in Les Misérables and Wicked on the London stage; Oliver Savile, who has appeared in Wicked, Company, The Last Ship and Knights of the Rose; Emma Kingston, whose West End credits include Evita, Les Misérables and In the Heights; and Ryan O’Gorman, who has performed in Miss Saigon, Rent and Little Shop of Horrors.
As with last year, the friendly faces around Brook Cottage Farm will be performing – this time in a summer panto penned by riding instructor and Bishop’s Stortford resident Hester Tingey.
Zach and The Magic Haystack features the festival’s youngest ever performer, six-year-old Luella Anten. The starlet said: “I’m looking forward to playing the part of the giant as I’m so small! It’s going to be very funny.”
This will be the second consecutive year that Theatre in the Fields has been staged at the farm. Its inaugural offering featured performances from local talent, Edinburgh Festival Fringe previews, acts from professional theatre companies, a troupe of West End and Broadway performers and BBC New Comedy Award winner Angela Barnes.
The event is the baby of the Brook Cottage Farm-based Big Room Theatre Company, which was created by actors Lee Harris and Tabitha Tingey.
Lee said: “We met and immediately gelled whilst working on an acting job together at Pitlochry Festival Theatre. We had very similar ideas about what we wanted from our careers and the industry in which we worked.
“We had an ambition constantly to create and offer opportunities to our friends and fellow theatre-makers. So we started our company and started creating, but found all too often we were frustrated with not having enough money or space to share our material.
“The meeting of worlds with Brook Cottage Farm – which has 27 acres of land and hosts a yearly music festival, BrookFest – gave us the idea to start a theatre festival. We’d seen nothing like it before.
“In our second year we have over 25 performances, four of which have been produced by our own theatre company. All of the other shows have been selected by us and get a free space to put on their piece, with shows in Bae’s Barn, a 120-seat venue, operating a simple 80/20 box-office split, the majority to the performers.”
This year, Lee, the festival’s artistic director, and Tabitha, the creative director, have been given a helping hand by the National Lottery Community Fund, which awarded them a grant of £9,843. This has helped them to grow the festival.
“Tabitha and I have worked tirelessly to bring a real diverse quantity of shows, all with differing styles and catering to all ages and tastes, over four stages,” said Lee.
“To complement the performances, we have stunning food vans, bars, yoga, children’s entertainment, a teacup ride, a Barrel Train, Victorian-style lawn games, stalls, massive decoration and festival cheer.”
* Performances take place between 10.30am and 11.30pm. Tickets cost £15 for adults, £10 for children and £13 for concessions. Please note that shows in Bae’s Barn require a token for entry. These cost £5. To find out more, visit www.theatreinthefields.com