RAISING THE CURTAIN #9: “All The World’s a Stage” – by Mitch Hamer

It was in ‘As You Like It‘ that Shakespeare wrote the famous words ‘All The World’s a Stage’, and my experience of performing Shakespeare on the Island has proved just that. Who says that the stage MUST be a traditional proscenium arch in the theatre with rows of chairs of audience.

To date I’ve performed in eight Shakespeare productions, with the Isle of Wight Shakespeare Company (IWSC), in eleven venues and only two of them have been performed in that traditional stage, even when a tradition stage has also been in the venue.

I’m going to get Henry IV out there first as we actually performed it in four different venues, and this is confusing me as I count the stages. The venues were, Shorwell Village Hall, Ryde Aspire, Languard Manor and Trinity Theatre. Those of you familiar with the venues will think you’ve spotted the two traditional stages straight away, but alas, we did not use the stage at Shorwell OR at Trinity theatre. We actually built our own in-the-round stage at each of these venues which was exactly the same dimensions each time, we were like a travelling company, which I remember being a part of the show. At Languard Manor, we performed in the grounds, lit by fire. Clearly Languard Manor worked well, as we also performed the whole run of Henry V there, as part of the Shakespeare Festival.

The two shows that I’ve performed on a traditional stage are, As You Like It, which was at The Apollo Theatre in Newport; and The Two Gentlemen of Verona, which was in a school hall in Ventnor as part of the Ventnor Fringe Festival, so even that wasn’t a traditional theatre.

Aspire Ryde isn’t the only church we’ve performed in either, I suppose the pews do well at mimicking an auditorium and that a church service is in itself a performance to an audience, which is probably why it works well as a venue. The first of these was my first production with IWSC, and that was The Winters’ Tale at Cowes Church in Northwood Park, and Romeo and Juliet at Ryde Methodist Church. Macbeth was performed at Ventnor Arts Club and The Merry Wives of Windsor (Not IWSC) was performed in Carisbrooke Castle of all places.

I think my highlight of all of these was just that, performing Merry Wives at Carisbrooke Castle, something about that setting just made it so special to perform and rehearse there, teamed with a fantastic cast and crew as well by the way, it was unconventional, yet it felt right and looked amazing.

Basically, what I’m saying is, all the world IS a stage, theatre globally as well as on our little Island can, has and will be performed in so many varied spaces. In reality, it’s less about the space and more about what you can do with the space. I honestly believe that none of these performances were hindered by the space, in fact, I think the vast majority of them were enhanced by the setting and atmosphere.

Mitch Hamer

This is the 9th in a series of “Raising The Curtain” posts, thank you Mitch!

If you would like to share an Island theatre story, to reminisce, let us know. We look forward to sharing your contributions.

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