Outdoor Shakespeare and I go a long way back. Not all the way to 1599 and the opening of the Globe Theatre you understand, but far enough back to be able to claim to be somewhat ‘experienced’. My mis-spent youth involved long warm summer evenings in Elizabethan costume enjoying the beautifully designed ‘rooms’ at Hidcote Manor Gardens, waiting to go on for my small part in plays such as Measure for Measure or Much Ado About Nothing. “They swore you were well-nigh dead for me” is one of my favourite romantic lines in any genre.
So when our new classroom and dining hall block was being designed and there was a weird banked area at the far end, it made complete sense to include a patio area for dry-day lunchtime over-spill as well as, with four large steps rising up the bank in a semi-circle, the potential for outdoor drama production.
Christened during design as the ‘amphitheatre’ (although I’m told incorrectly named as it is only half a circle) it was clearly going to be an incredibly versatile space with excellent acoustics, proximity to electrical power, catering and toilets, and well sheltered.
So imagine how thrilled I was when the Drama teacher agreed to produce a Shakespearean play this summer on the fabulous new ‘stage’. I was determined that this was going to run so smoothly that there would be a production every year and our amphitheatre would become known far and wide as an excellent venue for all kinds of theatrical and musical productions.
As we SBMs often do, I gave as much support as I possibly could. I sewed curtains to cover the massive 7.5m window, I organised refreshments, bought fairy lights and offered bags of encouragement and reassurance.
But there was one thing even I couldn’t organise, and that was the weather. On the first night after 6 weeks of blue skies, the necessity for fans in classrooms and some serious expenditure on air-conditioning, it decided to rain.
And not just the odd shower, but some pretty significant, find-the-smallest-vulnerability-in-the-roof type rain.
This always reminds me of a joke I loved as a child;
Red Arrows Display Team –This Saturday (If wet in Village Hall)
The production was moved into the Music Hall. There were no picnics on the School Field, no arriving early to enjoy a glass of wine in the evening sunshine, no wonderful smell in the air of insect repellent and chocolate buttons. We made the best of it, kept smiling, and crossed our fingers for the second (and last) night.
As is typical of British weather, the second night was glorious. There were picnic-ers. My curtains looked fabulous, the fairy lights sparkled, the cast were amazing, all lines were remembered, the audience could hear everything that was being said, the sun set over the building and the wine and ice cream flowed during the interval. It was a smash.
There were a few small hiccups, of course. The milk ran out on the last cup of tea customer of the evening (and just typical that it had to be The Boss!) and on clearing away after the interval, I set off the intruder alarm going back to my office and had to hot-foot it over the site to switch it off before it completely ruined the play!
But, even with all the ups and downs, I am still hopeful for, and looking forward to, an outdoor production next year. Because on the second night it ran like a dream. A Midsummer Night’s Dream in fact.