Returning for their traditional two-night Harrogate International Festivals residency is Oddsocks Productions, who this year celebrate three decades performing Shakespeare “as the Bard would have done it!”
This year the actors - who have played RHS Garden, Harlow Carr, for 28 out of the 30 years – are bringing with them their unbounding energy to A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Before taking to the stage the cast of six – who each play at least two characters each – spend hours constructing the bespoke stage. The original pageant caravan they toured with and upgraded over years has been superseded by their “living house”, akin to a two-tier stage adjacent to the Globe Theatre that Elizabethan actors would rehearse on.
For those unfamiliar with the play, it’s a story of four young lovers who run away to a summer festival in the woods to escape the stress of parental expectations at home.
Before long they unwittingly find themselves the subjects of tricks, played on them with hilarious results. Add to that a troupe of amateur actors hired to play at the festival and you have the perfect recipe for an evening of hilarious family entertainment.
Elli MacKenzie, Oddsocks co-founder and its creative producer, says this play in particular is a wonderful introduction to Shakespeare, especially for youngsters not yet familiar with his work.
She said: “The show will particularly appeal to children, as it is full of slapstick with plenty of laugh out loud moments. It’s a wonderful way to introduce them to Shakespeare in the whole. We do it how ‘the Bard’ would have done it!
“Unlike some of his more serious plays that are performed around the country on a regular basis, this one is full of colour. And because there is a cast of just six, with plenty of costume changes, it’s always very high energy. It’s also very interactive with plenty of audience participation.
“We have done it many of times over the years, however in many different ways! A Midsummer Night’s Dream is perhaps arguably one of the most accessible Shakespeare plays, of which can appeal to a wide range of audiences, from younger children, families to those who are particularly interested in Shakespeare.
“It’s a classic that whenever we have performed it before, many, many audiences have requested to see it again. No matter how many times it has been performed, it just does not expire, because it is innately funny.
“There are plenty of risqué lines within the script, fun and magical parts throughout with plenty of opportunities for us to insert our fantastic music – an element which we’ve now added to our productions.
“It’s a great story and really exciting as it includes a ‘charm of fairies’, however, they are not the ‘floaty’ type of fairies as one may expect – our fairies are fairies with a difference!
“Everybody in the story gather together to celebrate and throw a big party, which is a great production choice for Oddsocks as it’s a fun, energetic comedy and slots in perfectly with celebrating our 30th anniversary!”
And of coming to Harrogate, Ellie added: “We love coming to Harrogate – not least because of the wonderful surroundings and fantastic audiences with many coming year in, year out – but because as we are here for two days, we get to have an early night and a late morning! One-night performances are exhausting!”
Andy Barrow, Ellie’s husband and co-founder, (Bottom and Oberon) is joined by two other cast members making a welcome return to Harrogate. They are Alice Merrivale (Puck and Hermia) and Peter Hogarth (Lysander, Snug and Mustardseed).
Aside from being a touring theatre company, Oddsocks provide actors for prestigious heritage sites throughout the year and produce corporate training videos, lead team-building days and help businesses to understand the importance of internal communication in the workplace.
A former Oddsocks actor is Nina Sosanya, who has recently starred in Killing Eve and Last Tango in Halifax.
Elli advises those coming to watch one – or both – of the Oddsocks shows should be prepared for the “British weather”.
“Even on the warmest of summers, like last year, is it advisable to bring a warm coat. Whilst some bring chairs, tables and candelabras and make a real occasion of it, others are just happy to sit on blankets. All invariably bring picnics and drinks.”
If there’s one show you see this summer, make it this one!
A Midsummer’s Night Dream takes place on Tuesday, July 9 and Wednesday, July 10 at RHS Harlow Carr Gardens
Friends of the Festival and RHS Card Holders Priority Entry* | 6.30pm
General Admission | 6.45pm
Tickets are prices at:
Children seven-18: £12
Children under seven: £5
Family ticket (two adults and two children): £56
"The show will particularly appeal to children, as it is full of slapstick with plenty of laugh out loud moments. Its a wonderful way to introduce them to Shakespeare in the whole. "
Elli MacKenzie, Oddsocks creative producer
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