It’s again time for the annual Shakespeare season in the open-air theatre at Maynardville Park so shake out your blankets, stock up on bubbly and get ready to pack a picnic for some entertainment under the stars.
Having delighted audiences for 62 years, the 2018 season has been expanded to include even more events.
Called the Festival Under the Stars, this year it will be complemented with music, dance, comedy and other theatrics.
The season kicks tonight, Thursday January 18, for three nights with the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra who will present the Symphonic Shakespeare concerts.
Cape Town City Ballet will follow, from Wednesday January 24 until Sunday January 28 with Les Sylphides and The Firebird.
The Cape Town Comedy Club will present Jesters in the Park, with a nod to the Bard, from Wednesday January 31 until Saturday February 3, which will feature a high profile stand-up comedy line-up hosted by Rob van Vuuren.
The Shakespeare play for 2018 is The Taming of the Shrew, to be staged from Wednesday February 7 to Saturday March 3.
The person tasked with driving the festival is Brian Heydenrych, producer of LiquidMatch Productions, one of the venue partners.
He said the Artscape theatre will offer technical support, costumes and more to the festival, with support from The Maynardville Open-Air Theatre Trust and myself.
“All of us have a desire and commitment to ensuring the continuance of Maynardville and in particular the Shakespeare,” he said.
Mr Heydenryck promises audiences will get to see top performing artists and Shakespeare with a classical spin and some contemporary spice, all in the beautiful outdoor setting.
The Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra will feature some of the most popular music set to some of the Bard’s popular plays. With Brandon Phillips on the podium and narration by Rodney Trudgeon, audiences can listen to scores from Nicolai’s Merry Wives of Windsor and Romeo and Juliet by Tchaikovsky to Berlioz and Prokofiev, and Mendelssohn.
Les Sylphides was the first ballet staged at Maynardville in 1950. Six years later, the first Shakespeare was staged at Maynardville and it so happens to have been The Taming of the Shrew (opened 1956).
“It’s a fitting return to the first Shakespeare presented at Maynardville and this comedy is bound to shake up the stage. This time the all-female cast are reinvented and re-energised by Tara Notcutt, with pop treat- ment by producer Siv Ngesi and The Pink Couch,” said Mr Heydenrych.
At 30, Tara Notcutt is the youngest director at Maynardville. She lives in Green Point and she and her sister Cleo, who lives in Southfield and is choreographing The Taming of the Shrew, went to Wynberg Girls’ High School. Alicia McCormick who plays the lead role of Kate lives in Kirstenhof.
Mr Heydenrych said there has always been an open call for directors to submit. “The perception was that this was a ‘closed shop’, but the only criteria for submission was experience in large scale work as Maynardville is an incredibly difficult space to work in.”
Asked how comedy fits in with the classical theme, Mr Heydenrych said: “Comedy has its history deeply set in Greek roots, but this is also part of our dialogue going forward. Classical has many interpretations. It’s not just about setting up a vibrant programme but creating a buzz and choice. I’m trying to build the offering for the patrons, and upscale it in terms of quality and service,” he said.
Maynardville Open-Air Theatre is a firm favourite with schools, and is for many students a primary exposure to theatre. This year is no different as the festival will work closely with schools to bring groups of youths into the space for a special night under the stars.
Mr Heydenryck said patrons are still welcome to bring their own picnics but food will be sold on-site.
Bookings for the shows can be done through Computicket and Artscape Dial-A-Seat on 021 421 7695.