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A look ahead to this year’s Arundel Festival

PUBLISHED: 11:23 02 August 2016 | UPDATED: 11:23 02 August 2016

Shakespeare in the Collector Earl's Garden

Shakespeare in the Collector Earl's Garden


An open-air Shakespeare performance in 1977 sowed the seeds for the first Arundel Festival in 1979. All these years later the Bard is central to this nine-day community event, as Jenny Mark-Bell discovers

It was Shakespeare who started it. In 1977 a performance of one of his plays in Arundel Castle’s Tilting Yard, staged to raise money for the town’s Silver Jubilee celebrations, was a sell-out success. The next year was the same story. So, in 1979, Arundel Festival was born, with a production of Twelfth Night at its heart.

Thirty seven years later the Bard is still a big part of the community event, taking place from 20-29 August. This year’s plays, performed in the castle’s Collector Earl’s Garden, are the much-loved tragedy Romeo and Juliet and pastoral comedy As You Like It.

Barrie Palmer, co-owner of GB Theatre Company which has brought Shakespeare’s plays to life outdoors since 2010, says the prospect of performing at Arundel Castle is a major enticement to his actors. Barrie, a former police officer who became an actor at the age of 51, says: “We do Shakespeare as he did it himself – we are following that tradition.”

Of course, acting outside brings its challenges – “we don’t want it to rain!” And for actors more used to television or radio work, projection can be a challenge – although since the audience for Shakespeare in the Collector Earl’s Garden has grown to more than 800, some microphones are mounted in the performance area to ensure those at the back can hear what’s going on.

The company performs throughout the summer at venues up and down the country (there are also performances in East Sussex, at Alfriston and Herstmonceux), but Arundel is a favourite: “It is such a beautiful place and everybody is so nice!”

Barrie says Shakespeare is for all the family. “We are trying to get more and more children in the audience. Wherever we go we put on workshops for children and you get kids of five and six. I had a lady thank me recently for introducing her nine-year-old daughter to Shakespeare.”

This year, as we commemorate 400 years since Shakespeare’s death, his legacy is as strong as ever. Barrie thinks that is because his plays are so relevant. “In As You Like It you have the Seven Ages of Man speech. That’s just as true now as it was then!” 

Good to know

• This year’s event takes place from 20-29 August

• An app developed by a local company will enable users to keep track of Arundel Festival events. To download just click on the red circle icon on the Arundel Festival website
• Arundel Festival is supported by Christ’s Hospital


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