Spinningfields was the setting for the GB Theatre Company’s double bill of Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors and Macbeth offering al fresco entertainment on The Lawns in Manchester.
Founded in 2010 by Gillian Roca and Barrie Palmer (the latter also being one of the stars in the productions), GB Theatre Company brings classic plays to audiences around the UK and Europe.
This is the first time the company has included Manchester in its tour schedule, with The Lawns at Spinningfields providing a space for up to 400 theatregoers. Palmer explained: “We have in the past performed at the new amphitheatre in Sheffield City Centre and also performed at Askham Bryan College York. It was Ben Young at Capital Properties who saw one of our performances at York last year, liked what he saw and thought that Spinningfields would be an ideal venue. Being an amazing city, Manchester was crying out for outdoor Shakespeare. I went to the venue early this year and agreed it should work, it went on from there.”
On the Sunday I went to watch both shows. Fortunately, the theatre gods blessed me and the other 399 audience members with sunshine and warmth. There was, of course, every chance the weather would not be on the company’s side.
“There are great challenges, not least the English weather,” admits Palmer. “But the long range forecast for this summer is excellent. Also the actors need to work hard to project not just their voices but the sometimes gentle nuances of the text. We have no scenery but allow the actors to tell the story through Shakespeare’s text and along with traditional costume create the right atmosphere. The benefits are that we take Shakespeare to the people as Shakespeare did himself, all performed outdoors.”
The cast for both performances included the sister of Kenneth Branagh, Joyce Branagh, as Lady Macbeth alongside Mia Keadell, Aonghus Weber and Jenny Johns among others.
‘”GB Theatre Company is a new company so this is our fifth year and we are going from strength to strength,” says Palmer. “This year we had over 5,000 submissions from actors and agents wanting to be seen for an audition, such is the reputation we have built so quickly. We would love to appear at other Northern venues so if anyone wants to contact me with a venue I would love to hear from them. Another new venue this year is Appleby Castle in Cumbria.”
Performed in traditional costume with little or no set, the tour is in celebration of the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth. “At this particular venue the productions will not be in promenade unlike some other venues as Spinningfields doesn’t really lend itself to it,” says Palmer.
And, sadly, for me at least, this was a disappointing element to the two pieces which felt static and old-fashioned. Perhaps seeing them in promenade as they were meant to be seen would have had a more positive outcome.
If you’d like to book the company at your venue, you can find contact information here: www.gbtheatrecompany.com/contactinformation.html
The productions are touring throughout August. Check out the itinerary here: www.gbtheatrecompany.com/venues2014.html