Amateur drama companies will be taking to the stage at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast later this month to showcase a series of Shakespeare-themed productions.
The excitement is palpable as one of the companies will then be invited to perform in Shakespeare’s hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon this summer.
The six companies are taking part in the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) Open Stages project which aims to develop and celebrate amateur theatre and reforge the bond it has with professional theatre.
From Julius Caesar to The Merchant of Venice, the amateur companies will perform a range of Shakespeare inspired plays – some more unusual than others – in the Naughton Studio at the Lyric Theatre from 16 to 22 April. The six companies from across Northern Ireland and as far afield as Dublin and Galway are the Rainbow Factory, Southbank Players, Greenwood Players, Fringe Benefits, Bart Players/Dublin Shakespeare Society, and CR018 Productions.
Open Stages is an important element in the RSC’s World Shakespeare Festival. It, in turn, is part of the London 2012 Festival, the culmination of the Cultural Olympiad, which will bring in major international artists for a spectacular arts bonanza across the UK. Some 264 amateur companies and ten regional theatres are taking part in the Open Stages project.
Philip Crawford, Lyric Creative Learning Co-ordinator said: “Our Creative Learning Department is constantly looking at ways to engage with the community. This is a wonderful opportunity for professional and amateur theatre to work together and share a common passion.
“It’s not a competition. I’m very keen that it should not be seen in that way. It’s a showcase of the rich talents of our amateur companies and a celebration of the work of Shakespeare. But of course, the ultimate possibility of taking a production to Stratford is at the back of everyone’s mind.”
RSC Open Stages showcase is from Monday 16 to Saturday 22 April at 7.30pm in the Naughton Studio at the Lyric Theatre Belfast.