Two directors have been signed up to work on the Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre season for the first time.
The award-winning open air theatre opens on July 1 and will run until Sunday, August 21 and feature a new adaptation of the children’s classic Stig of the Dump performed alongside Shakespearean comedies As You Like It and The Two Gentlemen of Verona.
The season, produced by Storyhouse who are behind the city’s music and literature festivals, works with some of the country’s leading theatre practitioners including Olivier Award winner Jessica Swale who is adapting Stig for the 2016 season.
Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre’s artistic director, Alex Clifton – who will direct The Two Gentlemen of Verona - has formed a team that includes directors Philip Wilson and Derek Bond.
Wilson – who grew up in Cheshire - has worked at theatres across the world and in films including the Oscar winning Shakespeare in Love with Gwyneth Paltrow.
He will direct the season’s opening show As You Like It, describing his version as ‘enchanting, improvisatory and joyful’. Bond, who directed the Royal Exchange’s hit 2015 show Little Shop of Horrors, will direct Stig of the Dump, dubbed ‘magical and playful’.
Wilson said: “Working in the open air is very democratic - the performance is in shared light and there’s a very real sense of the story being created live, for an audience the performers can see and can draw upon as allies and confidantes in the soliloquies. Much, I imagine, as the plays would have been performed originally at the Globe and Rose theatres.
“Also, Chester is in the round, echoing the “wooden O” of the Renaissance theatre. Which means that everyone gets an individual, in fact unique, point of view. Plus, the circle is perfect for As You Like It, which is set mainly in a clearing in a forest.”
Derek Bond will direct the world premiere of Jess Swale’s Stig of the Dump. On working outdoors he says: “Alex Clifton is fond of saying that the lighting design for Grosvenor Park is by God. Not being able to use light and lighting to tell the story is a challenge - like eating your dinner with one hand tied behind your back. But it means we’ll have to find new creative ways to tell it - which is exciting.”
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Wilson’s interest in theatre began in high school. “I acted in plays at school but I was always watching the show from within. I wasn’t “in the moment”, as actors must be. I also worked with visiting set designers, and loved creating a world for a play to exist in. So, when I went to university, I started to direct - and design - student shows and haven’t been stopped yet.”
Bond’s first theatre experience was during a high school trip to see the Northern Stage Ensemble’s production of A Clockwork Orange in Coventry.
“It was big, noisy, brash - I loved it. I remember coming out of the theatre feeling like a door had been opened for me. All the theatre I’d seen or read up to then had felt like it was covered in a layer of dust and meant something to my middle-aged teacher, but not to me.
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“When I’m directing a show, I always remember that 14 year-old sitting in a theatre having all the lights turns turned on in his brain and hope that my show will do that for someone else.”
Alex Clifton said: “We are greatly honoured to be joined by two of the country’s finest theatre makers. Philip has made work for all of the country’s major playhouses and is internationally recognised for his skill with verse while Derek’s wit, charm and creative imagination continues to delight audiences.”
Tickets for As You Like It, Stig of the Dump and The Two Gentlemen of Verona are on sale now at www.grosvenorparkopenairtheatre.co.uk.