Theatre News

24 Hours Traffic in Shakespeare

Noon on Wednesday June 24th and it’s time to launch a 24-hour Shakespeare marathon in Sheffield City Centre as part of the city’s Children’s Festival and in the presence of the Lord Mayor, Councillor Graham Oxley, poet/presenter Matt Black and groups of primary school children eagerly trying on Elizabethan costumes.

Young students from Firth Park Community College were first to take to the stage (or, rather, carpet) in the shadow of Sheffield’s City Hall. Their own action-television-news version of the deaths of Romeo and Juliet was followed by primary school pupils assisting in a re-telling of the story of the same play – the play that, ironically, according to its Prologue, fills a mere “two hours traffic of our stage”.

Also involved in the launch was the recently appointed Artistic Director of Sheffield Theatres Daniel Evans who was a memorable Ariel in the Michael Grandage/Derek Jacobi Tempest at the Crucible in 2002. Not surprisingly, for his first public appearance since his appointment, he took on the part of Ariel, though relying on the words for the magic in a tee-shirt-and-jeans reading, in contrast to the youngsters who scrambled happily among the costumes on offer!

Daniel was taking a short break from the demands of running Sheffield Theatres at an awkward, but potentially very exciting, time. Not only is the Crucible Theatre in mid-refurbishment (the new entrance looking very smart, the stage door area in a state of semi-destruction), but Tudor Square in front of the theatre is fenced off, being redeveloped for its future role as an elegant setting for both main Sheffield theatres.

There is the Lyceum Theatre, of course, which has just announced a good quality, predominantly popular touring programme for the Autumn: High School Musical 2, Chicago, dinnerladies, Hello Dolly! and so on, with the National Theatre’s The Pitman Painters unmissable in early November and the odd foray into the unexpected with Insane in the Brain, a hip hop version of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (October 9-10) – a stage adaptation of Rain Man (September 7-12) sounds interesting, too.

And what of The Crucible? It’s due to re-open in November and December with a series of music-based events and Daniel Evans will announce his first season later this year. After several outstanding seasons followed by a dark spell which of course feels longer than it really is, we can hardly wait.

Meanwhile, back at the 24-hour Shakespeare… Macbeth at Midnight I preferred to take on trust – likewise King Lear at 3 in the morning – but, as midday on Thursday neared, Abbeydale Primary School was bringing the event to a rousing conclusion, with an animated and well drilled black-clad chorus re-telling the story of Macbeth from the angle of the three witches.

Ron Simpson