Nobody’s Bard from joining Ipswich’s Red Rose Chain Shakespeareathon

Red Rose Chain, A Midsummer Night's Dream in 2010

Red Rose Chain, A Midsummer Night's Dream in 2010 - Credit: Archant

There’ll be no time to sleep, never mind perchance to dream for those taking part in Red Rose Chain’s 25-hour Shakespeareathon.

Red Rose Chain's Twelfth Night in 2011. Photo: Sarah Lucy Brown

Red Rose Chain's Twelfth Night in 2011. Photo: Sarah Lucy Brown - Credit: Archant

It starts at 7.30pm, June 4, with the Ipswich-based company’s final performance of Richard III at The Avenue Theatre and will feature everything from sketches and performances to dance and songs inspired by The Bard.

The reason is three-fold. First to mark the 400th anniversary of his death, second to mark 25 years of Red Rose Chain and thirdly to raise funds to set-up a new creative storytelling project for under fives and their families in Chantry and surrounding areas.

The company’s first official event 25 years ago was a 24-hour Shakespeareathon at Ipswich’s Wolsey Theatre featuring Men Behaving Badly star Neil Morrissey among others.

“We’ve added an extra hour. When you’ve done 24 then 25 is nothing really,” laughs project leader and Richard III actress Rachael McCormick.

Red Rose Chain, A Midsummer Night's Dream in 2015. Photo: Bill Jackson

Red Rose Chain, A Midsummer Night's Dream in 2015. Photo: Bill Jackson - Credit: Archant


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“I think by that point we’ll all be so deliriously tired we’ll have gone past the point of no return. It’s a lovely way to mark how it began and so we’ve got this lovely Richard III, the Shakespeareathon and then The Tempest which is going to be really good fun.”

She and faces from the company’s past and present will be taking part in the cross-dressing, identity swapping and exiting pursued by a bear fun. But they want to get as many people through the door to perform and watch too.

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“There will be a minimum donation to spectate and you’ll get a stamp on your hand so you can re-enter at any point throughout the marathon. Performance wise it’s open to absolutely anyone of any age. I had one email saying ‘my daughter is only 10 is she too young?’ I was like ‘no that’s absolutely brilliant’. There’ll just be a minimum sponsorship of £10 you have to provide.

“You don’t have to have any experience whatsoever with Shakespeare or performing; it’s really about people just rocking up and doing something fun for a really brilliant cause.”

Red Rose Chain, Richard III, in 2016. Photo: Bill Jackson

Red Rose Chain, Richard III, in 2016. Photo: Bill Jackson - Credit: Archant

Contributions can be anything from one minute to 30 minutes long. The only other stipulation is the piece must have its roots in Shakespeare.

“It doesn’t have to be ‘to be or not to be, that is the question’,” says Rachael. It could be a song or piece of music from a musical like West Side Story, inspired by Romeo and Juliet or Kiss Me Kate which is based on Taming of the Shrew.”

People interested in taking part will find everything they need to know here.

If you’re nervous about performing, the Red Rose Chain’s seasoned team of performers will be on hand with advice for a donation.

Red Rose Chain's King Lear in 2013

Red Rose Chain's King Lear in 2013 - Credit: Archant

Highlights during the event will include a video performance from the cast of The Play That Goes Wrong, who can’t take part in person because they’re performing two shows in London’s West End. The London cast of Les Miserables have something a little different in mind. Former Red Rose Chain actor Scott Ellis’ Merely Players are doing something, as will the company’s own youth theatre and community theatre groups.

“Its really important to us the community gets involved, that’s what it’s all about. It’s going to be really fun, a real party atmosphere. We’re working on getting it live-streamed as well so anyone who really can’t be here will be able to watch the madness unfold online and we’re hoping to have a Shakespeare-themed photobooth... It’s important for people to know it isn’t in anyway serious or you have to know loads of Shakespeare.

“The storytelling project is designed to give parents the tools and encouragement to read to their children and have the confidence to bring stories to life and get youngsters excited about reading before they start school, to give them a headstart and show how brilliant literature and stories can be.”

Red Rose Chain, A Midsummer Night's Dream in 2010

Red Rose Chain, A Midsummer Night's Dream in 2010 - Credit: Archant

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