The official blog for the 5 star, Off West End nominated Shakespeare ensemble. We are the resident company at Leicester Square Theatre in London's West End.
Our next show is Twelfth Night, 5th April - 14th May 2016. Join us as we celebrate Shakespeare 400!
Wednesday, 19 June 2013
Siobhan's Guest Blog for West End Frame!
Our Artistic Director & Exec Producer, Siobhan Daly, was recently thrilled to be asked to be the first ever guest blogger for the theatre site, West End Frame!
Guest Blog: A Summer of Love with Grassroots Shakespeare London
I recently read that although Shakespeare spent most of his life
working, acting and writing in London, we really only associate him with
Stratford-upon-Avon, a place where he spent relatively little time.
Perhaps it’s fitting then, that as a Londoner, I established Grassroots
Shakespeare London in my home town and capital city with a fun and
vibrant ensemble of top young classical actors to bring his works to
life in a fresh and exciting new way.
I’ve always been compelled by the beauty of his language and the emotion
of his plays. I remember being at school and studying Oberon’s speech
from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, “I know a bank where the wild thyme
grows….”, and being completely stunned by the depth of the imagery, how
instantly you could picture exactly what he was describing, the sights,
the smells, the atmosphere.
This wonder never left me, but as I grew up, I was confused to realise
that many people didn’t share my enthusiasm. As I asked why, I found
that it wasn’t that they didn’t like Shakespeare, but that they felt it
was somehow for other people, those with university degrees perhaps, or a
special innate knowledge into the mysterious workings of The Bard; a
bit like an elite club for people who spoke in booming, deep voices and
about things like ‘iambic pentametres’, as though it was a secret
password into attending the theatre, which of course, it isn’t at all.
You don’t need any of these things. Yes of course, they can deepen your
knowledge and help the actors, but most of all, and most importantly,
Shakespeare was written to be performed and enjoyed. He wanted people to
engage with the stories, to laugh, to cry, to leave the theatre
thinking about what they’d just seen, to share in the experience.
To try and get back to basics, Grassroots is an Original Practices
company. This means that as much as possible, we try to follow the
rehearsal and production methods of Shakespeare and his actors, so we
work without a director as they would have. We cast gender-blind and
collaborate to devise a show that is full of imagination and excitement
rather than fitting into a director’s concept of what the show should
be. This creates a production that is accessible and intelligible; we
have twelve imaginations instead of one.
And it seems that people like it. We performed our first show in August
2011 and by 2012, we had launched the More London Free Festival during
The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations, headed up to the Royal
Shakespeare Company (RSC) to perform Much Ado About Nothing as part of
the World Shakespeare Festival, got nominated for two Off West End
Awards for Best Ensemble and Best Production, and produced a Five Star,
sell-out Christmas rep season where we were having to turn people away
as we just couldn’t fit them in.
This year we’re performing a six week Summer of Love rep at the Old Red
Lion Theatre in Islington of the heart-breaking classic Romeo and Juliet
and the romantic comedy, Love’s Labour’s Lost with one talented cast.
This is a brilliant opportunity for Shakespeare on the London Fringe as
most runs are only four weeks, so we’re hoping to bring these great
works to as many people as possible.
I’m also passionate about identifying and nurturing the top young
classical actors and giving them an opportunity to showcase their
outstanding talents. Our Assistant Artistic Director is Boris Mitkov, a
22 year old Arts Ed graduate who is also a writer, professional
photographer and director. He has already had a play translated,
supported by the British Council, and it is currently playing in rep in
Sofia. He has also taken his own plays up to the Edinburgh Fringe
Festival where they have received five star reviews. Boris is playing
Romeo and Costard in our current season and has been leading the
rehearsal process for both shows. He’s a great all-round talent
including on our multimedia, script editing, lighting shows or building
set! Or there’s Matthew Cavendish, a recent graduate from LAMDA who was a
finalist in the prestigious Stephen Sondheim Student Performer of the
Year competition and who is playing Lord Capulet/ Apothecary and Moth/
Mercade this summer; or Christien Bart-Gittens, a 20 year old who I
auditioned last year and have subsequently seen go from strength to
strength. He has just finished his Foundation Year at East 15 and is
auditioning for drama school. The future of theatre is very bright with
actors like these.
Apart from their great talent and your ability to see them now before
they’re off to Hollywood, is the fact that they can truly communicate
the story. Part of setting up Grassroots was to help break down any
elitist barriers to appreciating Shakespeare’s work but also to present
intelligent, textually rigorous productions. We’ve all seen boring
productions of Shakespeare where the actors have just learned their
lines and not really understood a thing they’re saying. Good actors
don’t let this happen. They want to communicate with you and they do.
It’s a whole different experience.
We try and keep our shows as affordable as possible and we’ve kept our
prices this year to the same as they were in 2012. We’re also hoping to
keep running a free summer show at Victoria Embankment Gardens under
Grassroots Offshoots, an ensemble of actors who are at Foundation degree
or drama school audition stage. This year, Christien Bart-Gittens is
leading a production of As You Like It for us in early August. We love
nothing more than people stopping by to enjoy the show and then
surprising themselves when they realise it’s Shakespeare!
Grassroots is fun, exciting, experimental, ground-breaking, passionate
and bursting full of talent. I hope you can join us for our Summer of
Siobhan Daly is the Artistic Director and Executive Producer of
Grassroots Shakespeare London. She is a RADA graduate and SOLT/ TMA
Stage One West End Producer where she worked on the 2012 Olivier Award
winning ‘Goodnight Mr Tom’ (tour and West End), ‘The 39 Steps’ (tour and
West End) and ‘The Ladykillers’ (Tour and West End). She is the
Associate Producer for Theatre Royal Haymarket Productions which is
currently co-producing Lee Evans and Sheila Hancock in ‘Barking in
Grassroots Shakespeare London will be performing Romeo and Juliet and
Love’s Labour’s Lost in repertory as part of a Summer of Love at the Old
Red Lion Theatre, Islington.
Tuesday 18th June – Saturday 27th July 2013 at 7.30pm. Matinees on Saturdays and Sundays at 3pm.
Tickets: £15/ £12 conc. (booking fee applies to online and phone bookings)