SHAKESPEARE will be played out at Sheffield’s newest open air events space next week when GB Theatre Company arrive with their latest productions, The Taming of the Shrew and The Tempest.
The touring company who last year performed in the Peace Gardens will present the first professional theatre in the South Street Park ampitheatre from Wednesday to Saturday.
The tour of the two plays, one directed by distinguished actor Jack Shepherd, the other by Jenny Stephens, a producer of The Archers on radio, has so far taken in castles, stately homes, a cathedral and a festival in Norway.
But the company are excited about the spectacular theatrical location cut into the hill above the railway station which affords the prospect later in the evenings of the city lights forming an atmospheric backdrop.
David Davies, playing the lead role of Petruchio in Shrew and also Antonio in Tempest, is also company manager and earlier in the year came up to Sheffield to look at the space.
He owns up to being the man shouting out Shakespeare last winter which passers-by may have assumed to be a mad man.
Satisfied with the acoustics the company decided it would be a worthy addition to their summer itinerary.
“Because we are doing outdoor Shakespeare we have to be flexible, reacting to all the variables of the venues,” he says.
“At a recent performance there was a peacock in the background and in Sheffield we are going to have departing trains for St Pancras.”
Last year GB Theatre alternated Romeo and Juliet and Twelfth Night and this year have chosen the contrasting qualities of the magical Tempest and the comedy Shrew.
“Jack Shepherd has directed The Tempest and it’s very artistic,” reports Davies.”He knows the story intimately having played Prospero several times.
“Jenny Stephens brings a crazy frenetic approach to Shrew – a sense of anything can happen. We tend to look on the play as rough roguish lad seduces posh girl whereas we say it’s about two people. He ends up with a fascinating woman.”
The notion of a woman being tamed makes the play somewhat problematic to modern audiences.
“It could be a fairly dark story of misogyny which would be unacceptable to women and most men these days,” agrees Davies who has become something of a Shakespearean specialist in his career which has taken him all over the world. “There’s some strong stuff but you want people to feel that if these two people are turned on by each other it says something about the relationship.
”Lucia MaAnespie is playing Kate and we have a lot of fun which you have to do. There is no deep psychological message, it’s a bawdy romp.
“The ethos of the company is that we are travelling players and we try to give feeling that we have just got off a cart – though in our case it’s the train.
“We have traditional costumes and live music and a few other signature things. We are trying to build the idea of a company that Shakespeare might have seen or even been involved with.”
There is a cast of 11 in the company performing roles in both plays and what everyone is looking forward to, says Davies, is a change in the weather. The company’s pledge that only thunder and lightning will stop them performing has been pushed to the limit.
The Taming of the Shrew is on Wednesday and Friday, The Tempest on Thursday and Saturday.