A midsummer spectacular from The Roses Theatre
By David Wood
For anyone feeling starved of live events, the Roses Theatre in Tewkesbury has a treat in store for when restrictions are lifted.
Like all theatres and cinemas, The Roses had its income decimated by lockdown but it is fighting back with an ambitious new programme for the post-Covid era.
Thursday, June 24, marks not only Midsummer but also an exceptional opening night as the curtain rises for The Roses' specially commissioned outlandish, outdoor, laugh-out-loud spectacle of Shakespearian proportions: Almost A Midsummer Night's Dream. And it almost didn't happen.
Drawing on a pool of local talent, Almost A Midsummer Night's Dream has been written exclusively for The Roses by actor and playwright Nick Wilkes.
Nick grew up near Tewkesbury and has a long connection with the Roses. His career has seen his work performed in many theatres around the country including The Other Place, home of the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon.
It is directed by Colin Smith of Tewkesbury who is a Theatre in Education practitioner and senior lead in Education.
The story develops as award-winning theatre writer and director Humphrey DeForest Brassington-Jones arrives in Tewkesbury alone because his travelling troupe with scenery and costumes are stuck on the M5 after an accident.
In the best showbiz tradition, Humphrey is determined that the show must go on and Tewkesbury must not be deprived.
So, rather than deny his audience, he announces that he will play every part himself. However, Jack the council gardener and Ms Anneka Drable (a tweedy professor of English Literature and Medieval History) have other ideas and decide to 'help'. What could possibly go wrong?
However, this humorous new production very nearly didn't happen. Nick has been home schooling his three children who are 12, nine and five which he says was "all consuming and quite overwhelming, and the time for me to do my job, or indeed have any sense of self, almost nil. Writing in adversity?
"Covid seemed to repeatedly brick up the door of the theatre but creativity will always find a way through the cracks. Despite me having to put my life and career on hold, we have come through it all and created this piece of theatre for the very day we are due to come out of lockdown."
Almost A Midsummer Night's Dream is reflective of The Roses Theatre's optimism and ambition as it recovers from the effects of the pandemic. Not many theatres of its size are able to commission and stage unique productions of this quality.
Jess Brewster, director of The Roses Theatre, said: 'It's been a really tough year but thanks to the furlough scheme, grants from Arts Council England and no small measure of grit and determination displayed by the whole team, we're still standing.
"We felt that the end of lockdown required a special celebration and, for us, that meant live theatre. Christmas was challenging but we managed to stage a pared-back panto called 'Almost A Christmas Carol' until restrictions required us to stop; it was such a hit with those who did manage to see it that a summer version of 'Almost' made perfect sense.
"Our new 'Almost' is full of fun and humour which is just what we all need right now. We hope that people will bring a picnic and their favourite bubbles and celebrate both the end of lockdown and midsummer with us in the beautiful setting of Victoria Gardens on the banks of the River Avon."
Almost A Midsummer Night's Dream runs from 24 June to 4 July and tickets can be purchased online at www.rosestheatre.org or through the box office on 01684 295074.
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