While many people were settling down to watch Croatia play Nigeria in the FIFA World Cup, I was enjoying a cup of tea with Clive in the grounds of Long Hall, Buckinghamshire. We were less than an hour away from the annual Chiltern Shakespeare Company summer performance. This year it was the lesser-known tragedy Richard III featuring a debut performance from Katy Palanivel. This was not my first time watching a production in the beautiful grounds of this stately home just outside Beaconsfield. In fact, last time had also been a World Cup year. Most people across the country were watching England’s blunt nil-nil draw with Algeria while I enjoyed the entertaining Twelfth Night albeit in the rain. Little did I know then that eight years later I would return to watch a close member of the family take part in the company.
Michelle attended the afternoon matinee the same day, with her brother. While I had opted for the evening performance with my friend Clive. The staging had been much improved from 2010, with tiered seating in three blocks around the performers rather than a larger and steeper single block directly in front of the actors. I came to this performance cold, knowing little of the main character apart from his famous line, which actually only features in the final scene.
The director’s creative interpretation was to transplant the story from 15th century England to the mid-1910s (perhaps just pre The Great War) Germany. Did this work? I am not too sure, the idea perhaps made more sense on paper but from the audience point of view, it was difficult to understand and follow. However, I cannot criticize such a wonderful performance from all the players but in particular the lead role. Played with such conviction by Ryan Witney (highly regarded for his lead roles with other groups such as Fourways, Ubiquitous, BTG & YT). Katy had a minor role as the messenger, exchanging a 50 pence piece with Hastings. An enjoyable way to spend a Saturday evening immersed in some culture. The special effects were quite good for an amateur production and in particular, the ghost dream sequence was very well choreographed. The show runs until next Saturday, well worth a visit, even if only to discover the wonderful grounds by the side of the M40.