Director hoping Shakespeare Country's 'wit and sheer corn' will be worth wait
Steve Orme speaks to the director of the Marlowe Players' next production, Shakespeare Country.
MARLOWE Players' Martin Illston has waited more than 20 years to stage the company's latest production.
He had to wait for such a long time to direct Shakespeare Country by Peter Whelan because he wanted to ensure the group had the right mixture of ages and gender.
The play is set on Midsummer's Eve in present-day Stratford. A host of other odd and unusual characters conspire in one way or another to make it an evening to remember.
They include American country and western singer Billy Shake, who has arrived in town looking for the connection which will authenticate his claim to being the true descendant of William Shakespeare; two leading Royal Shakespeare Company actors who are to be married the following day but are harbouring doubts; a Japanese businessman from a pharmaceutical company test-marketing a new "feelgood" tablet, and a New Age traveller.
The play has been described as a "wonderful mixture of pure wit and sheer corn".
Martin says: "I saw the huge potential for bringing out the humour. It's very funny. There's a large cast of 11 with an additional four non-speaking roles, so the play gives the group the opportunity to extend itself."
This will be the second time the Marlowes have produced a play by Peter Whelan.
In 1989, in Derby Playhouse Studio, the group presented The Accrington Pals, a play based on a unit in the First World War which contrasts experiences in the 1916 Battle of the Somme with those of the women left behind in Lancashire.
Shakespeare Country will be totally different and it will be a first for the Marlowes in their current home because it will not be a traditional proscenium arch production.
"It's the first time we've had an audience on three sides at Darley Abbey Village Hall to make them totally involved," says Martin.
"We're using the stage, floor and aisles so the audience should feel part of the action and will hopefully be reading ahead as to what will happen."
He adds: "It plays on different levels. There are lines taken straight from Shakespeare and there are parallels with characters in A Midsummer Night's Dream. There's also visual comedy for people who simply like a good evening's entertainment."
Mark Pardner plays actor Rafe Duke, who is performing in Stratford in A Midsummer Night's Dream.
"He fancies himself a bit and can't wait to get married to his Titania. However, his plans begin to go awry," says Martin. "The attraction is that all the characters have similar-sized roles, making for an equal challenge as well as an enjoyable experience for all involved."
Martin Illston sums up what is in store for members of the audience: "A great night's entertainment that will have them remembering so many of the characters for months to come."
WHAT: Shakespeare Country
WHEN: March 19-23, 7.30pm nightly
WHERE: Darley Abbey Village Hall
CALL: 07961 607372