With its intimate and friendly setting in Chester’s beautiful Grosvenor Park, the unique, custom-built outdoor theatre, along with its resident company, is fast gaining a well-deserved reputation for quality and excellence.
The season was created by innovative arts producer Chester Performs, and its Artistic Director is Chester-born RADA Lecturer Alex Clifton. Chester Performs was recently awarded a 35% increase in National Portfolio funding from Arts Council England to develop the project and the city has ambitions for Grosvenor Park to grow into the ‘Regents Park’ of the North.
The two productions will be performed in ‘rep’ and this year’s cast membership is a mixture of youth and experience, with a blend of RADA graduates alongside alumni from the likes of RSC and National Theatre. The outdoor productions are heavy on costume design but low on environmental impact; as the staging is weaved around the natural setting of the park. The intimate picnic theatre, designed and built in 2010, provides a classical style picnic amphitheatre around a Shakespearean thrust stage.
The season opens on 7th July with the perfect choice for summer, Shakespeare’s classic, bucolic comedy As You Like It, made even more magical in the beautiful surroundings of Chester’s Grosvenor Park.
As You Like It is directed by Nikolai Foster, described as “one of the country's most promising young directors” who has recently taken up post as Associate Director at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. Foster is joining the team, following his work in Singapore, where he directed an ambitious outdoor production of Macbeth as part of the Shakespeare in the Park season.
Alongside As You Like It is new play Merlin and the Woods of Time, written by award-winning poet and dramatist Glyn Maxwell - which opens on Thursday 14 July.
Directed by Alex Clifton, the play is a light-hearted and fast-paced comedy, set backstage at a jousting tournament. It is written mostly in verse and will be a surprise and a revelation to audiences. It has a Shakespearean style in its subject matter and language.
Maxwell has been described as “the best dramatic poet of a generation” and has won several awards for his writing, including the coveted EM Forster Prize, whose previous winners include Seamus Heaney and the Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy. He was, he says, “delighted to be asked to write the play for The Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre. It's a magical and enchanting venue which is perfect for Merlin.”
As You Like It runs until 21 August and Merlin runs until 19 August.