Arundel Festival: pick of The Bard’s comedies

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Michael Woodwood believes he has got the pick of Shakespeare’s comedies with Twelfth Night which he directs for GB Shakespeare company at Arundel Castle as part of the Arundel Festival.

“I think it is one of the cleverest and funniest of Shakespeare’s comedies with lots of not only knock-about comedy but great word play and wit.

“I have taken the idea of the shipwreck at the beginning of the play and imagined that the whole play is performed by characters that have been shipwrecked, so the production opens with a thunderous shipwreck where we use a large parachute to represent the sea and thereafter everything used in the production could have come from the ship ie the four large sea chests make up the seats and platforms used by the actors, or turned on their ends their lids become doors.

“The sails of the ship become various drapes in the households of Orsino and Olivia or become a cape, curtain or skyscape, while ropes and poles become a washing line. All of the characters are in the shipwreck and the sailors become the characters in the play.

“The text of the play is littered with seafaring imagery and references to water and the elements such as wind and rain. So as well as live music played by the actors all of the natural sound effects like the storm, sea shore, church bells etc are made by recorded sound.”

Michael added: “Because the production had to be directed for the open air and family audiences, I made the decision to concentrate a on the visual comedy of the piece and rather than a static staging. The production continually uses a variety of environments and levels so that there are things happening in different parts of the stage throughout the production.

“I have also included as much physical humour as I think the play will allow and have worked a lot with the actors on their physical characterisations so that all of the characters are immediately identifiable from their walk, manner or gesture.

“It has been a pleasure to work with such a talented cast of actors and this is the first time I have worked with GB Theatre which has proved to be an exciting and rewarding experience, especially with the wonderful reception the production received when it opened at the Dublin Shakespeare Festival in June.”

Arundel performances are Romeo & Juliet, Thursday, August 25; Twelfth Night, Friday, August 26; Romeo & Juliet, Saturday, August 27). Credit card hotline: 01903 882173 Mon-Sun 9am-5pm.