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Everything you need to know about Halesworth Cut's 'starry' Shakespeare Festival

PUBLISHED: 20:01 22 October 2019 | UPDATED: 09:03 23 October 2019

Theatre-maker Jenny Hall holding a portrait of her father Suffolk-born Sir Peter Hall, founder of the RSC and artistic director of the National Theatre. Jenny is sharing her Shakespeare knowledge, instilled by her father, at a new Shakespeare workshop event called SHAKE Festival in Halesworth. Picture: EAMMON McCABE

Theatre-maker Jenny Hall holding a portrait of her father Suffolk-born Sir Peter Hall, founder of the RSC and artistic director of the National Theatre. Jenny is sharing her Shakespeare knowledge, instilled by her father, at a new Shakespeare workshop event called SHAKE Festival in Halesworth. Picture: EAMMON McCABE

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Shakespeare continues to draw large audiences in our theatres and now Halesworth Cut is hosting a new Shakespeare festival which aims to celebrate the drama and artistry of Britain's greatest playwright

Bottom, played by Charles Laughton, rehearses with the mechanicals in Peter Hall’s staging of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1959), recorded for US television but never shown.  Picture: ANGUS MCBEAN © RSCBottom, played by Charles Laughton, rehearses with the mechanicals in Peter Hall’s staging of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1959), recorded for US television but never shown. Picture: ANGUS MCBEAN © RSC

Bringing Shakespeare to everyday audiences is something that Jenny Hall knows plenty about. Daughter of legendary director and founder of the Royal Shakespeare Company Sir Peter Hall, Jenny has teamed up with The Cut in Halesworth and Cut founder James Holloway to stage a new Shakespeare festival to celebrate the richness of The Bard's plays and discover the myriad of ways you can stage the works.

Sir Peter was born in Suffolk, the son of a Bury St Edmunds railway station master, and now his daughter has recently taken up residence in Benhall, near Saxmundham, and is looking to develop an accessible Shakespeare festival for the east of England.

The ambitious new SHAKE festival aims to blend fun, scholarship and theatrical expertise, in an inclusive, immersive event designed to appeal to all ages. It will take place at the end of Halloween half term, on the weekend of October 25-27.

"We want this to be open to everyone - whether you know anything about Shakespeare or not" said Jenny Hall, the festival director. "Workshops will have audiences as well as participants, and some will have professional actors, while some will be open to all so that anyone interested will be able to have a go."

David Tennant's stand-out performance in Hamlet is being screened at the Halesworth Cut as part of SHAKE Festival which celebrates the diversity of Shakespeare's work. Photo: PADavid Tennant's stand-out performance in Hamlet is being screened at the Halesworth Cut as part of SHAKE Festival which celebrates the diversity of Shakespeare's work. Photo: PA

Jenny was invited by Cut founder James Holloway to create a festival after staging two workshops in May at The Cut, in speaking Shakespeare's Verse using the method her father taught her when she played Miranda in his production of The Tempest at the National Theatre.

"James, who knows his Shakespeare, got terribly excited by the workshops and suggested we do something that celebrated Shakespeare and his theatrical world but also made it open and accessible for everyone.

"It will be ideal for young actors, amateur actors and anyone who has an interest in the work of our greatest dramatist. Staging it at the Halesworth Cut is wonderful because it is a real community resource with a variety of spaces and different levels which can be used, so you can house an entire festival under one roof.

"I wanted to base the event on the workshops but I also wanted to balance that with some events and we are starting off with a banquet on Friday and have gained access to two inspiring films and we have some brilliantly entertaining academics as well as some very experienced RSC people like Harriet Walter."

Director Lucy Bailey will do a workshop based on Titus Andronicus titled Shock & Gore - her production at London's Globe Theatre had audience members fainting every night. Lucy has worked extensively at Snape and formed the Gogmagogs musical theatre group in Suffolk, which she says is the place of her heart.

Suffolk-based Ian Kelly, the stage and screen actor and writer best known for his 2015 West-End hit play: Mr Foote's Other Leg, starring Simon Russell-Beale and directed by Sir Richard Eyre, will give a talk titled: "Shakespeare, Garrick and the Birth of an Icon".

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Dame Harriet Walter, the award-winning actress recently seen in Succession on HBO and will be joining the cast for the next series of Killing Eve, will lead a workshop on Shakespeare and Gender - providing work commitments don't over-run.

Walpole-based baritone Rob Gildon will create a musical Merrie Evening of Shakespeare-inspired music with poetry read by Jenny Hall.

Meanwhile, John Wyver, of Illuminations Media, will present two films of famous stage productions. Before the screening, he will talk about film and television adaptations of RSC productions as well as his work producing the RSC Live from Stratford-upon-Avon cinema broadcasts. John is Director, Screen Productions at the RSC and the author of the recently published Screening the Royal Shakespeare Company: A Critical History.

The first film will be Hamlet (2009) with David Tennant, Patrick Stewart and Penny Downie. Filmed on location for BBC Television, Time Out praised, "the rich texture of this stunning production... a visually arresting style... a mesmerising three hours."

The second film on the programme is a true rarity: A Midsummer Night's Dream (1959), with Charles Laughton, Robert Hardy, Mary Ure, Ian Holm, Vanessa Redgrave & Albert Finney. Directed for stage by Peter Hall, this is a rare screening of a historic recording made on the stage of the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon. Peter Hall's stage production starred the great Charles Laughton as Bottom and featured a host of emerging actors who would distinguish RSC productions in the next two decades.

The black-and-white recording was made for American TV but seemingly never broadcast, and includes a delightful prologue by Laughton wandering the streets of Stratford as well as a welcome to the theatre by a youthful Peter Hall.

Professor Grace Ioppolo of Reading University will talk about Shakespeare's troupe and the trouble they got into when touring in Suffolk and other places, titled: "Vagrant and licentious rabble": The life of a travelling actor in Shakespeare's England.

Roger Eno will compose original music for a Dance workshop, led by Cut co-founder Caroline Mummery - centering on Ariel's song 'Come Unto These Yellow Sands' from The Tempest.

Dr Bonnie Lander-Johnson of Cambridge University will give a lecture titled: 'Flowers, Folklore and Shakespeare's Rural Upbringing' (lecture with actors).

The SHAKE Art exhibition will run from October 12- 27 and boasts work by local artists Stuart Pearson-Wright, Celia Lyttleton, Eamonn McCabe and Bill Jackson (both Suffolk based), with Jenny Polak (Norfolk and New York), Katrin MacGibbon and London-based Kitty Arden, whose family is descended from Shakespeare's mother.

Adding to the mix Richard O'Brien, of the Shakespeare Institute at Birmingham University, will give a talk about writing plays in verse and The Cut Choir will sing Shakespearean songs.

The festival begins at 5:30pm on Friday October 25 with a performance of Much Ado About Nothing by The Three Inch Fools company. This will be followed by a banquet, with special catering by Café 51, of Southwold. The menu will be based on food that Shakespeare referred to.

For more information on the SHAKE Festival go to the website at http://www.shakefestival.com/

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