Hay Theatre CIC are nearing completion of a community project called ‘A Midsummer Garden’, part funded by the Hay-on-Wye Co op Community Fund. Against all odds and adverse conditions, largely due to Covid restrictions, Hay Theatre CIC, run by Artistic Director Janine Sharp and Trustee Sue Hodgetts, have produced a specially adapted version of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ to be performed on August 13th - 15th at St Mary’s Churchyard, Cusop. This production leads the audience (limited to forty), on a tour around the beautiful churchyard, promenading between the ancient yew trees, under which fairies meddle in human affairs on a midsummer night. “We had to postpone the project start date. We weren’t allowed to go out until the end of April 2021, therefore as we knew we couldn’t make the June 21st midsummer performance as planned and we had an extremely shortened rehearsal period,” said Janine. The setting is stunning, the churchyard well known for its conservation principles contains grasses, rare flowers and in the autumn some rare fungi too. “Here’s a marvelous convenient place for our rehearsal.” say the Rude Mechanicals and indeed it is.
This unique, open-air, site specific performance concludes Artistic Director Janine Sharp’s (BBC Playaway) 45-year career as she retires in January 2022, “Well, the big productions anyway”, she says. She has run Hay Theatre CIC for twelve years; first setting up Saturday morning sessions, creating Hay Junior Youth Theatre for 7-11 year olds in the basement at The Globe in Hay, in 2009. When the children reached 11 and they didn’t want to leave, the Senior Youth Theatre for 11-16 year olds was set up in 2013. Parental interest in drama grew, whilst drinking coffee upstairs, chatting and waiting for their kids and Janine managed to form Hay Adult Theatre Studies ( HATS) in 2011, which began theatre training sessions every Thursday evening. “Several of my students from across the groups have gone on to be theatre or film professionals, others attend my sessions for confidence but generally our drama family provides security and support plus a huge amount of fun”. Sue Hodgetts joined her class in 2012 and became a much valued and trusted trustee and business partner. Disaster struck the company when The Globe turned their basement into a café and Hay Theatre found themselves without a home, so they set themselves up at Cusop and Clyro Village Halls on a rather more nomadic basis. “We tried so hard to find a permanent base but properties are commercial and expensive around here. We had hoped that Hay Castle would include a theatre in their plans especially as the Hay Community Hall had closed down.” St Mary’s Church, Cusop came to the rescue as Covid 2020 struck. “Use our church grounds”, said Celia Cundale, Church Warden. So the children’s classes opened up last summer and this summer and the result is… a major production which combines all of her groups working together in an intergenerational cast of twenty-six local people plus crew, with ages ranging from 7-78 years old. Along with the sun and the moon, WestEnt lighting provides illumination for this community event as the natural daylight fades into evening. ” Doth the moon shine that night we play our play?” says Snug the Joiner. We hope so, so that Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ can meet up with Cicely Mary Barker’s ‘Flower Fairies.’ Janine said, “Combining both works was a way of getting the ‘Midsummer Garden Project’ together and enabling everyone involved to play a part. I have always loved the Flower Fairies and the children designed and made their own wings, led by workshop leader Johnny Cartwright. It’s all really Steam Punk.” It has been a wonderful and ambitious project which started out in adverse conditions. “Lockdown nearly finished us off, but I decided to continue being the salmon swimming upstream that I’d always been and create a show that complied with all the Covid restrictions, except actual lockdown of course. I like a challenge. If we can’t go indoors, then we’ll go outdoors, if we have to be distanced then we’ll limit the audience numbers and keep them on the move. If it rains, I can move some scenes inside the church and we have bought two gazebos for other scenes and at worst we can have an extra performance on the Sunday evening, if any others have to be rained off. In my job you have to think of everything. I am presently relieved as thanks to the vaccinations we can now take masks off, project our voices and even sing. I owe a big thank you to St Mary’s Church, Cusop for supporting us through this crisis. Out of this crisis we were able to create a drama.” It has all felt like a strange dream these past eighteen months and this production captures that feeling as Janine invites the audience to sing “Row, row row the boat gently down the stream (or should it be upstream) merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream”. It is an interactive performance, the audience are part of the court, part of the wood and can enjoy a glass of prosecco and a fairy cake at Theseus and Hippolyta’s wedding.
Look out for Puck played by Zach Williams who will shape-shift and make all things magical happen. Join Hay Theatre CIC for this last big adventure but book early as tickets are limited. Be prepared to Walk the Dream, bring a light-weight fold-up chair. August 12th-15th. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call Sue Hodgetts on 01497 822523 for available times, prices and reservations. “Up and down , up and down I will lead you up and down” says Puck along with all the other members of Hay Theatre Company.
STOP PRESS; All shows now sold out.