Merely Theatre bring Shakespeare classics to Theatre Royal Wakefield once again

The company will bring their productions; Macbeth and Much Ado About Nothing, to Wakefield on Monday 24th and Tuesday 25th September, following the success of their previous tour of Romeo & Juliet and Twelfth Night in 2017 and A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Henry V in 2016.

Merely Theatre create energetic, crystal clear Shakespeare productions. Audiences follow the story better than ever and feel actively involved. Inventive and relentless, their work is informed by years of honing their principles in rep. The result is a dynamic cast of actors telling these amazing stories through sheer imaginary force. Company member Simon Grujich explains, “I’ve always been excited by Merely’s approach to the story telling of Shakespeare. They really like to make sure that the story is told with precision and that absolutely everything is shared with the audience. The energy and fun with which they approach Shakespeare is also something that makes me enjoy working with them.”

This 2018 tour sees established Shakespearean director Abigail Anderson take the helm. Anderson has directed over 90 plays that have performed all over the UK, North America, Poland and France. Anderson was Associate Director at Theatre Royal in Bury St Edmunds from 2008-11 and has been an Assistant Director for the Royal Shakespeare Company and Shakespeare’s Globe.

Abigail Anderson comments, “I’m delighted to be working with Merely Theatre because they have a passion and commitment to Shakespeare’s plays that equals my own – and I’ve been in love with his plays since my very early teens. I’m pleased to say that I’ve directed 18 of them so far and I’m working my way through the rest! Our focus for these productions will be on clarity of text and engaging the audience in every moment”.

Over the last two years Merely Theatre toured with the same company of 10 actors, with a cast of 5 taking to the stage each evening. For the 2018 tour the company has grown to a cast of 6 and will see some new faces for returning audiences. With 3 female and 3 male actors Merely Theatre continues its commitment to gender-balanced casting.

For the first time AD Scott Ellis will be treading the boards on tour after directing 2016’s double bill of Henry V and A Midsummer Night’s Dream and 2017’s Twelfth Night and Romeo & Juliet. Ellis will play notorious Lothario Benedick and waiting-gentlewoman Margaret in Much Ado About Nothing in addition to the ill-fated Banquo in Macbeth.

Ellis will be joined by returning company members Simon Grujich and Emmy Rose who will play the hugely contrasting couples Macbeth & Lady Macbeth and Claudio & Hero respectively. Alice Osmanski, Jennifer Shakesby and Andrew Hislop all join the touring company for the first time; their roles include Osmanski as Beatrice, Shakesby as Macduff and Hislop as Duncan.

On joining the company Jennifer Shakesby comments, “I’m elated to be performing with the company! I’m looking forward to engaging with their rigorous approach to the text, to the energy and clarity that is brought to every show, and the sheer joy that exudes from their work.”

Much has been made of the death of repertory theatre. Doing multiple shows at once, working with the same actors, learning a huge breadth of parts, immersion in the classics, and stretching an actor’s range are just some of the advantages of which theatre luminaries have mourned the loss. For some, that loss was too much to take. So, Merely Theatre started as a way for a company of actors to work together discovering the best way to put on Shakespeare’s plays. Rep is not dead, it has evolved.

Artistic Director Scott Ellis comments, “We’ve done our best to recreate that same atmosphere and attitude from the old rep system. The discipline and the technique, the focus. The commitment to making every time we’ve done it the best time we’ve done it. We put in the work, we sweat it hard, and out of that pressure cooker come some extraordinary things. It’s an exhilarating way to work. We are doing raw, pure Shakespeare, the kind people get swept up in and excited by.”

Both Macbeth and Much Ado About Nothing are on sale now via the Box Office on 01924 211 311 or theatreroyalwakefield.co.uk.

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