Talbot Retires After 20 Years as Open Air DirectorDate: 26 July 2006
Ian Talbot (pictured) will step down as artistic director of one of the UKís most famous outdoor theatres, the Open Air Theatre in Regentís Park. He leaves at the end of the 2007 summer repertory season, a season which marks the venueís own 75th anniversary and Talbotís 20th year as artistic director. The recruitment for his successor will commence later this year.
Although trained as a drama teacher, Talbot launched his career as an actor, with one of his earliest professional jobs being at the Open Air Theatre, where he joined the cast of perennial park favourite A Midsummer Night's Dream to play Bottom, a part he's now played nine times in total.
Since that first production, in 1971, Talbot has been an Open Air regular. His many other parts there have included Sir Toby Belch in Twelfth Night, Fluellen in Henry V, Grumio in The Taming of the Shrew, Dromio in The Comedy of Errors, Trinculo in The Tempest, Dogberry in Much Ado About Nothing and Napoleon in Shaw's Man of Density.
In 1987, Talbot was appointed artistic director of the Open Air Theatre and its resident New Shakespeare Company, which each year mounts its much-loved summer season - normally comprising two Shakespeares, one musical revival and a children's production in addition to music and other one-off events - come rain or shine.
Since his appointment, Talbot has produced over 75 shows at the park and directed Olivier-nominated musicals such as Oh What a Lovely War, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, The Pirates of Penzance, Babes in Arms, The Fantasticks, Lady Be Good and Kiss Me Kate, as well as various Shakespeare and other productions. Many of his Open Air productions have transferred or toured over the years, most recently his revival of Cole Porterís High Society, which had a run at the West Endís Shaftesbury Theatre earlier this year following two regional tours.
In this summerís season, Talbot is restaging his popular 2004 production of A Midsummer Night's Dream and also directing a new production of Sandy Wilsonís 1920s pastiche musical The Boy Friend. In the latter, which opened last week to critical acclaim (See Review Round-up, 24 Jul 2006), he also appears as the libidinous Lord Brockhurst, father of the title character. The Open Airís 2006 repertory season continues until 6 September and also comprises Rachel Kavanaughís production of Shakespeareís The Taming of the Shrew and childrenís show Babe, the Sheep-Pig.
- by Terri Paddock