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Sixty Years of Shakespeare at Pendley

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The grounds of the magnificent Pendley Manor, near Tring in Hertfordshire, have played host to an annual Shakespeare Festival ever since show-jumping commentator the late Dorian Williams founded it at his ancestral home in 1949.

60 years on from there, the anniversary celebrations have already begun with a reunion after the performance of Calendar Girls with Lynda Bellingham, who played Puck in the 1966 production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Bellingham gave a moving tribute to the festival, saying: "I can honestly say with my hand on my heart that performing in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Pendley laid the foundations for me forever. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a production that has been as good in my memory as that one. Every time I hear Mendelssohn’s music, it takes me back. It was just a combination of the darkness and the fairy-lights and the real wood –it was just amazing!

"I think it’s wonderful the festival has survived. It just shows you that for every generation there will always be people who want the whole experience of live theatre. There are bits of our heritage like Shakespeare – whether you love him or loathe him – which are in everybody’s psyche as a peculiarly English thing, and they must be cherished."

Over the 60 years of the Festival many other actors who have taken part have also gone on to build successful careers. They include Stephen Campbell Moore, Silas Carson, Raza Jaffrey, Caroline Quentin and Hermione Norris. Festival director Tom Attwood is full of enthusiasm for the two new productions – A Midsummer Night’s Dtream (what else?) which plays from 4 to 8 August and Macbeth from 11 to 15 August. He sees these as “our most electrifying productions yet”.

Something for all weathers, you might say.


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