6 min read
Blackpool Grand Theatre Creative Learning Team has been rehearsing and filming ‘Shopfront Shakespeare’ based on The Comedy of Errors and Blackpool’s comedy heritage. Produced in co-production with the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) and local adult community participants, as part of an RSC national programme of activity, Shakespeare Nation.
With theatres nationwide still unable to open due to Covid restrictions, how and most importantly where do you put on a co-production in response to Shakespeare’s, The Comedy of Errors? Well, It has to be the home of comedy heritage and the iconic Comedy Carpet – Blackpool! And Blackpool Grand had a perfect idea to highlight both… ‘Shopfront Shakespeare’!
Blackpool Grand Creative Learning Producer and project lead Jo Cleasby said, ‘The concept of ‘Shopfront Shakespeare’ was inspired by seeing reunions of families through windows and placing hands on Perspex screens. We could perform but ensure safety with performers behind the glass, an outdoor audience could gather, socially distanced.’
‘Online Zoom sessions took place throughout the pandemic and we even managed to gain a few new recruits for this performance piece. We also engaged the amazing RSC Director, Nicky Cox to work with us on this project. We started by looking at our own Comedy backgrounds and the comedians that make us laugh. Blackpool Grand Theatre even created a set of postcards that reflect these comic geniuses. (The postcards were a great hit with friends and family that have been isolated and unable to engage with online activities.) The comedy catchphrases that we researched and shared then made into the script created by Nicky that linked original text from The Comedy Errors with a tour of heritage sites of Blackpool.
‘Unfortunately, Covid-19 rules would not allow us to have a live audience for the Promenade performance, around the town centre but participants and creatives swung into action to adapt the piece for the camera.’
A participant of the project said, ‘I just want to say as someone that suffers daily from mental health this is the first group I’ve done in a while because of how bad I’ve been feeling lately and it really put a smile on my face and made me feel better so thanks from the bottom of my heart. Because doing Shakespeare and being a part of these groups has fulfilled a part of me that has been lost for a long time. Acting is everything to me and I lost that when I got mentally ill. So to be a part of Shakespeare Nation means more to me than you could ever know.
‘I feel privileged to work with top people from Blackpool Grand Theatre and in the RSC, it’s not often that an opportunity comes along like this.’
Nicky Cox, RSC Director said, ‘What a lovely group to work with, and what a great (though challenging!) idea to mash up Shakespeare, Blackpool history and be inspired by the Comedy Carpet! My ‘script’ was warmly received, and once rehearsals started everyone embraced the fun to be had. It was so great, after weeks of seeing people’s faces in Zoom boxes, to actually work together in the same space, outdoors and PLAY! Despite having to change from a promenading theatre piece to a film due to Covid-19 rules, last-minute cast isolation and good old seaside weather (!) the group met each challenge with a smile on their face and solved any problem faced. That’s the way to do it!‘
Celine Wyatt, Head of Creative Learning at Blackpool Grand added, ‘Blackpool Grand Theatre has been working in partnership with the RSC since 2011, so ten wonderful years of shared opportunities and joint working with our local communities, schools, artists and team. This Shakespeare Nation project is very close to our heart and we are very proud of the group and team led by Jo Cleasby, who have met so regularly to support each other through their fun exploration of Shakespeare, during what has been a very challenging time. Their ’Shopfront Shakespeare’ film soon to be announced offers an uplifting experience and we all look forward to a time when they will be back in the theatre, in the meantime, enjoy!’
Blackpool is home to the incredible ‘Comedy Carpet‘,
Artist Gordon Young, in association with leading design agency, Why Not Associates, created the Blackpool Comedy Carpet. 850 writers and comedians are represented on the Comedy Carpet – with letters ranging in size from a few centimetres to almost a metre tall so that the laughs can be enjoyed from all sides and from both close-up and at height from the Tower.
If you are interested in finding out more about the Creative Learning Team and future projects contact; firstname.lastname@example.org
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