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.
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.
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.
For our summer visitors, the cottage garden tells how an Elizabethan family fed and medicated itself. But we needed to raise its profile.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or call me on 01273 623336.