Thame Players return to The Elms, Upper High Street, Thame in July for an open-air Shakespeare production in the 400th anniversary year of the Bard’s death. It follows their highly successful ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ held in the same location back in 2014. This time, they’re staging Shakespeare’s Macbeth and we caught up with the play’s Director, Chris Parker to tell us a bit more about what the audience can expect…
How would you sum up the play and your approach?
It’s set in eleventh-century Scotland and our production will be authentic, complete with costumes consistent with the period – not a modern interpretation, as is often done these days. Essentially I see Macbeth as a thriller – it takes you on a nail-biting journey into the dark realms of human nature, while showing you the impact of human frailty and a lust for power on characters caught up in a tempest of their own making. The supernatural plays its part too, complete with witchcraft. I’m sure it will keep the audience on tenterhooks throughout.
What’s your own background and why is it suited to this production?
I’ve produced and funded six other outside Shakespeare productions at locations including the Chiltern Open-Air Museum. I’ve worked on Shakespearean projects at the Old Vic Theatre, Leeds Castle and St John’s Smith Square. I’ve also spent time at the Globe Theatre, London with Sam Wannamaker and had three years working with the late Cedric Messina, the well-known TV and stage producer. For Thame Players I’ve directed Present Laughter, How the Other Half Loves and Blithe Spirit.
Who have you chosen to play the lead roles?
Macbeth is played by Ryan Whitney, who has performed in both amateur and professional productions and his previous experience includes playing King George in The Madness of King George, Caliban in The Tempest and Guildenstern in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. Ryan has the knack of bringing out the sinister nastiness in characters. Lady Macbeth is played by Abi Tester, a long-standing member of Thame Players who has plenty of experience as a character actor, playing powerful, emotionally charged roles including Joy in Shadowlands and Doňa Rosita in Lorca’s Doňa Rosita.
What’s involved in preparing for a show like this?
Rehearsals are already underway – two evenings and one afternoon every week until the show opens. There’s also a lot of infrastructure work to do, including scaffolding, raked seating, sound and lighting, as well as various licences and insurance. It’s a costly show to put on, and we’re very grateful for the support of all our sponsors.
What facilities will be available?
There will be undercover seating for audiences, so rain won’t be a problem. You can bring a picnic, but refreshments will also be available, including a bar with local beer from XT Brewery, wines, soft drinks and tea or coffee. Local caterer Kirsty’s Kitchen will provide hot and cold food every day or you can look at the menu and pre-order a choice of ‘Macbeth’ or ‘Macduff’ picnics. Call her on 01844 202685.
How can you get hold of tickets?
Macbeth will be held at 32 The Elms, Upper High Street, Thame OX9 2DN from Tuesday 5th – Saturday 9th July inclusive. There are five evening performances at 7.45 pm and a matinee at 2.30 pm on Saturday (doors open from 6.15 pm daily and from 1.00 pm on Saturday). Tickets cost £10 and £9 (concessions) from Spear Travels, telephone 01844 217228, or you can book online at www.thameplayers.co.uk