“We pushed the button on Thursday and started rehearsing on Monday!”
Storyhouse has today announced that its flagship open-air theatre is to return with a new show for August, despite having been forced to postpone this year’s original season of three shows to 2021.
Grosvenor Park’s highly acclaimed production of The Comedy of Errors, directed by Artistic Director Alex Clifton, will play from 8 – 30 August in the organisation’s iconic pop-up theatre, with 8 actors working in a “bio-bubble”.
Andrew Bentley CEO of producers Storyhouse said: “We’re the country’s leading pop-up open-air theatre producer and we had to postpone this year’s entire season because the government couldn’t give us the go-ahead in time. It’s probably just as well, because 2020 was looking like a complete sell out so may well have been too busy”.
“But here we are again, an opportunity to get out there and help lead our industry out of lockdown. The country’s theatres are in hibernation but that’s not our way, and Storyhouse has now been open safely since 4th July. It’s the job of the UK’s theatres to open and serve their communities where they can.”
The Comedy of Errors will perform to an audience of 150 – or 25% of normal capacity, meaning only 4,000 tickets are available for sale with producers expecting very brisk demand.
Actors will work in a controlled bio-bubble and are tested regularly. They are rehearsing on Zoom or in the outdoors, but never inside. The theatre’s stage-side deckchairs are making way to provide further distance to the performers, both performers and audience will need to manage social distancing. As with all the producer’s events, customers are asked to wear face coverings on the move but not when sitting down. Entrance times are staggered to avoid a queue. Part of the ticket price is a donation which helps manage the risk in case of a local lockdown and this is a model the producer is trialling to enable future productions to take place economically.
Said Andrew Bentley: “The open-air is the right place to start. We pushed the button on Thursday and started rehearsing on Zoom on Monday, the crew are in the park now building the theatre, opening night is less than two weeks away. There’s not going to be a better opportunity to get back into theatre this year. Our customers understand this space, they know we can keep them safe and can be 100% certain of having a great time. There are a few privations of course, but that’s all part of the fun of being in it together. All 33 performances are in daylight only, with no interval, no rush to the loo, no bar. Actors won’t be jumping on anyone’s lap this year or throwing stuff at the audience, and we’ll ask our customers to hold back on the wolf whistling. We may have to rejoice inside a little, but that’s ok.”
The theatre is pride of place in the city’s main municipal park. Cllr Louise Gittins, Leader of Cheshire West and Chester council said:
“Summer just wouldn’t be Summer without Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre. I’m delighted that we are now seeing more activities re-inventing themselves to be able to return. There has been an incredible range of online activities, but nothing compares to live theatre.
“Storyhouse were the first to reimagine their indoor theatre as a cinema and bring a drive-in cinema to Chester and they have done it again with a socially distanced outdoor theatre that is set to be the hottest ticket this year. Here’s to the first standing ovation.”
Andrew continues: “Trying to survive in this climate is a long way from easy. 70% of the country’s theatres still expect to be out of business this year. Storyhouse and Grosvenor Park won’t be amongst them if we have breath in our bodies”.
Tickets go on sale to Storyhouse Members and Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre regulars on Tues 28 July with tickets on general sale one week later, performances start Saturday 8 August.
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