Guest Post: Brian Pedley presents Drama in the Night Garden with the Tamar Protection Society

Today’s guest post comes from Brian Pedley, journalist and Press Officer for the  Tamar Protection Society, Saltash, Cornwall, who explains how collaborating with a theatre company brings an ancient house and garden to life.

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Plays and musicals in London’s West End win awards for sets and scenery created on telephone-number budgets. But when the Derby-based 1623 Theatre Company brings Shakespeare to our town of Saltash, the big settings come ready-made.

The actors play against a backdrop of the River Tamar, Brunel’s Royal Albert Bridge, the courtyard of our 15th century property Mary Newman’s Cottage and its recreated Elizabethan garden, which we opened on March 19, 2008.

A man and a woman perform in a garden

Actors Kat Glenn and Matthew Barker play Romeo and Juliet in the Mary Newman`s Cottage Garden 2009 © Brian Pedley

Macbeth’s dagger scene was enacted in front of the potting shed, while Bottom, from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, loomed out from behind our Grade II Listed outdoor privy.

A ancient white cottage at dusk

Mary Newman's Cottage at dusk © Brian Pedley

For our summer visitors, the cottage garden tells how an Elizabethan family fed and medicated itself. But we needed to raise its profile.

A couple struggle in a garden

Kat Glenn and Matthew Barker in Course of True Love 2009 © Brian Pedley

A board member told us about the 1623 Theatre Company. Formed in 2005, the group has played in ‘non-traditional theatre spaces’ all over the United Kingdom in venues ranging from shopping malls to a courtroom and a quarry.

A man and a woman in a red feather boa performing in a garden

Elizabeth Rose and Adam Buss in Sinful Shakespeare 2010 © Brian Pedley

Marketing the first show was easy.

“Bring your own picnic,” we proclaimed, “and wash it down with wine at £6 a bottle – or our own apple juice.”

In a town previously starved of professional theatre, 1623’s performance of Shakespearean love scenes – The Course of True Love – on July 18, 2009, was a sell-out.

A view of the backs of the audience sitting on chairs in a garden courtyard

The audience in the garden courtyard © Brian Pedley

Birds sang and trains rumbled over Brunel’s bridge, while Juliet met her Romeo.

The courtyard audience, limited by law to a maximum of 60 people, loved every moment.

Night-time drama in the garden is now an established part of what we do.

A woman in a red jacket with blood on her hands

Elizabeth Rose has blood on her hands as Lady Macbeth in Sinful © Brian Pedley

For Christmas 2010, a company from Leicestershire performed a Victorian farce amid flickering braziers, lashed by freezing rain and revived by our hot mince pies and mulled wine.

A man leaning against a pillar, watched by an audience

Actor Matthew Barker of 1623 Theatre Company immerses himself in his role, watched by a courtyard audience in 2009 © Brian Pedley

The 1623 Theatre Company returns to Mary Newman’s Cottage garden on June 23 to perform Shakespeare’s funniest bits. Bring your own picnic. We provide the wine, as always.

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The face of a man wearing glassesA working journalist since 1969, Brian Pedley delivers features and research to national newspapers, TV and the web from his base on the Cornish bank of the River Tamar. He tweets as @BrianPedley.

Brian is also Press Officer of the Tamar Protection Society, which runs two historic properties in Saltash, Cornwall, Elliott’s Store Museum and Mary Newman’s Cottage and Garden, which will both be opening later than usual for Museums at Night weekend.

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Thanks, Brian! If you’d like to write a guest post or case study for this blog about any aspect of event planning or marketing in arts or heritage venues, please drop me a line at rosie@culture24.org.uk or call me on 01273 623336.

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