Last weeks screening of National Theatre Live "The Audience" was a great success and we look forward to many more theatre and Opera productions being shown at at the Drill Hall from September onwards.
Tonight the weather forecast is good for the third of Chepstow Festival's summer season of open-air theatre productions in Chepstow Castle with Heartbreak's "Alice" based on Alice in Wonderland, and Alice through the looking glass by Lewis Carroll.
Chepstow Castle is a spectacular setting for open-air theatre. Now its 25th year the theatre season organised by Chepstow Festival is one of the country's largest and most varied. This summer 10 plays are being performed by professional touring companies, ranging from those nominally for children to the "heavier" Shakespeare's. There are productions for all theatre-goers tastes. The season started in mid-June but still to come after "Alice" at the end of June and early July are "Sherlock Holmes" by the Pantaloons. A company who made their Chepstow debut last year with a knockout version of Grimms fairy tales. Then two Shakespeare's by Heartbreak ("Romeo and Juliet" 28 June) and Illyria ("As You like It" 29 June). Two companies whose continued professional performances and inventive staging ensure they have remained the backbone of the Festival programme.
Thursday 4 July sees Heartbreak with a production of Bram Stoker's "Dracula" and the following evening "Illyria's" Mikado (Friday 5 July) is bound to delight audiences as much as their two previous Gilbert and Sullivan productions. The final weekend of the Festival has "The Merchant of Venice" (Thursday 11 July performed by the 13 strong GB theatre company) and another Chepstow Festival mainstay Rain or Shine Theatre with "A Comedy of Errors" (Friday 12 July).
Performance of another sort, and a piece of Chepstow's cinematic history will be celebrated on 13th and 14th of July when the epic 1913 film "Ivanhoe" starring King Baggot, which was filmed in Chepstow Castle, will be screened. Filming finished on 15 July 1913 so this celebration of a film which employed many of the population of the town as extras is perfectly timed. The singing club will provide pre-film entertainment and assist musical director Karl Daymond in furnishing the film with an appropriate live soundtrack.
As with all Festival events at the Castle the audience should bring rugs or folding chairs and are welcome to furnish themselves with a lavish picnic. It's cheaper to book or buy the theatre tickets in advance from Chepstow Museum Tel 01291 625981 and, as the audience now have a rain shelter with the giant canopy, then there is no reason not to buy tickets in advance. Advance tickets are £11 full and £9 concession, with family at £34 and on the day of performance or at the gate they are £13, £11 and £40. A welcome side-effect of the canopy is a hugely improved acoustics experienced beneath it.
The Drill Hall will be closed from 22nd July to mid September for extensive work strengthening the roof trusses, which even though they have supported the roof for over 150 years are now deemed to be below today's exacting structural standards. Whilst this work is being done significant improvements will be made to the thermal installation and air extraction in the Hall and one of the trusses will be modified to allow us to project films higher up the screen for improved audience visibility.
Have a good summer and don't forget Bands on the Bandstand every Sunday (unless the weather is awful) until early September.