Shakespeare in Queen’s Park was an event dreamed up by a guy called Kim who lived with his little dog in the Madeira Hotel on Brighton seafront.
Kim sold his house in London and retired to Brighton. He lavished his money on the theatre that he loved, buying the fire escape, staging and rather plush curtains that are still in use at the Marlborough Theatre today.
The Royal Spa at the south side of Queen’s Park with it’s mock greek pillars and arched facade made the perfect back drop for open air theatre.
The first production of "As You Like It" was a surprise success of the 1988 Brighton Festival. Suprising because the weather was appalling. Despite being dubbed "The Umbrella Show" by the local press the inhabitants of BN1 and the rather bemused tourists who found their way in to the park proved they were not to be daunted by, frankly, a lot of rain. They came and they stayed and the next day their friends came.
When Kim absconded in mysterious circumstances it was Julie Lee’s energy that inspired the company to stay together and the second production of "A Midsummer Night’s Dream" for the 1989 Festival put the event firmly in the public perception.
Over the next few years Shakespeare in Queen’s Park became the most popular event of the Brighton Festival, attracting huge audiences and bringing together a wealth of creative talent in a public and demanding venue that tested their skills and ingenuity to the limits.
Twelfth Night was the third "Shakespeare in Queen’s Park" and the first we produced as Reaction Theatre. My favorite memory from the production was one of my big moments. I was delivering one of Malvolio’s biggest speeches when a fox, seemly oblivious to the audience of 700 walked calmly to the front of the stage, nicked a leg of chicken from someone’s picnic and just as calmly exited stage right!
It was a long time ago and I don”t have any pictures in my collection- If anyone out there has some I’d love to see them!
|14th – 26th May||Royal Spa, Queen”s Park, Brighton||2,500|
Evening Argus 14 May 1990
And a good time will be had by all!
Audiences for Twelfth Night being performed for two weeks at Brighton”s Queen”s Park, are actually being encouraged to eat, drink and be merry!
Re:action Theatre, oganisers of the outdoor production, want people to join in with the revelry of Shakespeare”s tale about mistaken identity bring their own cakes and ale.
Co-director Robin Manuell who plays pompus Malvolio said:""We want to encourage a festive atmosphere with people just sitting around eating and drinking.""
But he also advised people to wear warm clothing and bring blankets to sit on.
The show, featuring actors from the Pocket Shakespeare Company, will run at the Royal Spa in Queen”s PArk until May 26th.
The Stage, 28th June 1990
Re:action Theatre’s neatly abridged but gimmick free Twelfth Night was a particularly enjoyable contribution to the resort’s Festival programme.
The setting, a large pillared portico left over from the days when the site was a fashionable spa, proved ideal with good sitelines and unexpectedly clear acoustics.
A little more greenhouse effect would no doubt have been appreciated during the run but nobody expects May nights in Brighton to be exactly balmy,
The company, young, dedicated, well directed and blessed with a universal clarity of diction, made the play absorbing and intelligible enough to hold attention.
Its balance between romance and comedy was, perhaps, pulled somewhat in favour of the latter by Guy Lankester”s intelligent and highly athletic Clown and the splendid timing of Ross Guerney Randall”s robust Sir Toby, Ian Shaw’s knockabout Sir Andrew and Jo Rowden’s sharp Maria. But David FitzGerald’s Orsino had the required dignity and Robin Manuell’s Malvolio brought home the pathos of the role with an implicit integrity that survived humiliation.
Anna Mora Mieskowska’s Viola and Elizabeth FitzGerald’s Olivia were portrayed with appealing sincerity and the support from the others involved was infailingly sound
The production was directed by Margart Jackman. It is difficult to see why Re:action Theatre should choose, as it does, to subtitle itself The Pocket Shakespeare Company. There was nothing diminuitive about this offering.
Cast and Crew
|Dave FitzGerald||Sarah Downing||Gavin Clark|
|Julie Lee||James Richardson||Dave Mounfield|
|Beth FitzGerald||Jo Rowden||Ross Guerney-Randall|
|Ian Shaw||Robin Manuell||Kris Steffes|
|Alison Hampshire||Myfanwy Faulkner||Margaret Jackman|
|Jane Faulkner||Anna Mora Mieszkowska||Pat Moss|
|Neil Mansel||George Manuell||Dave Buckingham|
|Debbie Durban||Eileen Flynn||Guy Lankester|