Literary larks in the park with anarchic theatre company The Pantaloons
PUBLISHED: 11:23 30 June 2015 | UPDATED: 11:26 30 June 2015
You won’t look at Pride and Prejudice or Much Ado About Nothing the same again after watching Ip-art favourites The Pantaloons’ latest open-air shows.
The critically-acclaimed theatre company are known for their anarchic versions of classic works of literature; having previously put their own spin on Bleak House, Sherlock Holmes, The Canterbury Tales, Grimm Fairy Tales, A Christmas Carol and many of Shakespeare’s plays.
They are staging the first on Christchurch Park’s Mansion Lawn at 7.30pm tomorrow and the second at Holywells Park at 7.30pm on July 8 as well as Abberton Reservoir Nature Reserve, Colchester, from 6pm on July 11.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that Jane Austen’s romantic masterpiece is one of the best-loved stories of all time, dealing with important questions like Will Mrs Bennett offload her numerous daughters in record time? Will Lizzy and Darcy get together? Will creepy Mr Collins just go away please?
“We’re known for being somewhat silly,” says writer and director Mark Hayward, originally from Ipswich.
“But we will stay faithful to what it is people love about the book in the first place. This production will hopefully give Austen fans what they are looking for in a staging of Pride and Prejudice - the romance, the scandals - while at the same time providing a great introduction to those who are new to the story and also interweaving the elements that make a show intrinsically Pantaloony.”
By Pantaloony, he means live music, audience interaction, physical performances and a large dollop of humour.
“Austen’s original text is full of funny moments; we plan to capitalise on those and add a few of our own.”
The group began life 10 years ago as an open-air theatre company, busking plays for donations in parks and on the streets. It was there they developed an attention-grabbing, interactive and playful performance style.
They have picked up plenty of loyal followers and praise along the way, quickly becoming one of the country’s most prolific touring companies. Even they’re not entirely sure how and when that happened.
“We seem to have even slipped under our own radar,” says Hayward, who characterises the company’s work as post-modern folk theatre.
“We take well-loved tales and give them a contemporary twist, making them accessible for new audiences and showing seasoned fans something they perhaps had not seen in them before. It’s a real honour to be involved in Ip-art each year, especially as I’m an Ipswich lad. Holywells is a new venue for us and we’re looking forward to performing.”
Much Ado About Nothing is Shakespeare’s timeless tale of masks, music and mistaken identities.
The boys are back from war and it’s time to celebrate, but villainous Don John decides to spoil everyone’s fun with his devious plots. Will young Claudio and his love Hero fall foul of these machinations? Will Beatrice and Benedick stop bickering and fall in love?
The five-strong cast play around 20 characters so expect plenty of quick-changes, larger-than-life characters and dubious wigs.
By making the clowns an integral part of the show, The Pantaloons bring a genuinely traditional element back to Shakespeare’s work, making it accessible to people of all ages without dumbing down.
“This is a comedy which teeters on the edge of tragedy,” says artistic director Stephen Purcell, who is also a pre-eminent Shakespeare scholar and assistant professor at the University of Warwick.
“After the light-hearted holiday mood of the first few acts the notorious wedding scene sends the play into much darker territory. Luckily tragedy is averted - and it’s the clowns who save the day in the end.”
Click here to find out more about The Pantaloons.
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