12:57PM, Tuesday 25 June 2019
Last Thursday, I was lucky enough to be invited to see the The Garden Players’ performance of The Tempest in the grounds of the delightful Stubbings Estate. I was even luckier that we didn’t get soaked, as the rain had poured down almost constantly for the previous two days.
The Garden Players are an amateur Beaconsfield-based acting company formed in late 2008 who perform Shakespeare’s plays in open air garden settings to support selected charities, including the Child Bereavement Charity and Children with Leukaemia.
They returned to Stubbings for a fifth time to perform a series of open air performances of Shakespeare's masterpiece, The Tempest, directed by John Timewell. Visitors are encouraged to bring their own picnic and sit on the stunning lawns of the estate or, on a Friday and Saturday night, a three course meal is an option prior to the performance.
The story follows Prospero, the true Duke of Milan who is now living on an enchanted island with his daughter Miranda, the savage Caliban and Ariel, a spirit of air. Raising a storm to bring his brother, the usurper of his dukedom, to the island, Prospero plans his revenge.
For me the stand-out performance was from James Gwynne whose portrayal of Caliban, a savage and deformed slave was brilliant but this was followed closely by Trinculo, a jester played by Debbie Keenan and
The atmosphere created by the positioning of the ‘stage’ among trees and embellished by plants, probably supplied from the Stubbings Estate nursery, was magical – helped in no small part by bursts of impromptu bird song from the surrounding trees. The planned sound effects were also excellent however the noises of the storm at the beginning of the play did drown out the actors voices a little.
The evening was quintessentially English one and I will definitely be looking out for next year’s performance. I am not by any stretch a Shakespeare lover but I relished the whole experience and left determined to return next year – A Midsummer Night’s Dream which I believe they performed at Stubbings in 2017 would be perfect so I’m hoping for a repeat performance. Next time though, I will follow the lead of the person sitting in front of me and bring a hot water bottle as well as my picnic.
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