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Digging in Swan Gardens marks start of Stratford's new outdoor theatre

Work for the theatre has started in the Swan Gardens (47294719)
Work for the theatre has started in the Swan Gardens (47294719)

PREPARATION work has started in Stratford on creating a 500-seat garden theatre for the Royal Shakespeare Company.

A digger could be seen today (Tuesday) in the Swan Gardens where the temporary structure, which the RSC is planning to have ready for performances starting in July, is to be built.

Because of Covid restrictions, audience numbers would be restricted to about 300 people while the theatre itself, according to planning documents, would be removed by October.

The work will involve removing between 20cm and 60cm of the topsoil and replacing it with 40cm of compacted stone, erecting the seating, the stage, 9m-high lighting towers and a 2.4m-high security fence. Improvements are also planned to the riverside path through the gardens.

The RSC submitted plans for the Lydia & Manfred Gorvy Garden Theatre to Stratford District Council last month. The council has until 21st June to make a decision.

Meanwhile the RSC has announced casting details its outdoor production of The Comedy of Errors which runs between 13th July and 26th September in Stratford.

The production, directed by Phillip Breen, was due to be part of the RSC’s 2020 season, but was postponed owing to the pandemic. Most of the original 17-strong cast have returned to their roles but others have been recast.

Jonathan Broadbent and Greg Haiste retain their roles as, respectively, Dromio of Syracuse and Dromio of Ephesus, whilst Hedydd Dylan (Adrianna), Guy Lewis (Antipholus of Syracuse) and Rowan Polonski (Antipholus of Ephesus) join the company. Original cast member Avita Jay will now play Luciana.

Phillip said: “When we first conceived of this Comedy of Errors back in 2019, we had no idea that the production would welcome the RSC’s audience back from a global pandemic. But this play of family reunions - people finding each other once again, people holding each other at sunset - seems entirely apt for this moment, and we can’t wait to get back to work with this fabulous company of actors.”

Following the run in Stratford, the production will be staged in Nottingham, Canterbury and Bradford.

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