As You Like It ****

Shakespeare in the Park’s Lichfield production is fabulous!

Review by Justine Halifax for the Birmingham Mail - June 2017

Shakespeare In The Park’s outdoor performance in Lichfield is an annual highlight in Staffordshire's open air calendar of events, and this year was no different.

Set in an idyllic, woodland glade, the group’s 2017 production of the pastoral comedy As You Like It is yet another triumph.

Ahead of the opening night, director Sarah Stanley had promised she would deliver “A load of fun”, which she did and, for the most part, it came in the form of David Stonehouse as a fabulous court fool Touchstone.

With the glade extensively lit, giving it a magical, fairytale feel, the Bard's romantic, musical comedy, which features some bare-chested wrestling, and live on-set music, played out over two and a half hours.

It saw the beautiful grounds of Maple Hayes Dyslexia School transformed into the Forest of Arden and, as well as David Stonehouse, the cast is blessed many other strong actors and actresses, both regular performers and new ones.

These include Hannah Davies, who was an amazing Rosalind; Ellie Galvin who played a great Celia; Greg Spencer who was fabulous as Jaques a melancholy lord; while Robin Lewitt and Patrick Jervis were also great as the bickering brothers Orlando and Oliver. I also enjoyed Paul McEvoy’s performance as the old shepherd Corin.

The play features some of Shakespeare's most well known and repeated quotes like: “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players”; “The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool", and "Love is merely a madness."

I urge you not to miss this fabulous play, which also features a 60s/70s twist and is rounded off with a firework display.

The last time this Lichfield-based group, which donates all proceeds to local charities and celebrates its 35th anniversary this year, performed As You Like it was back in 2003.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Shakespeare in the Park went like a Dream

Review by Justine Halifax for the Birmingham Mail - June 2012

Two words sum up this year's Shakespeare in the Park production of the hilarious Midsummer Night's Dream - simply superb.

Praise must go to all those who took on a main role as they were all excellent as the group celebrated its 30th anniversary.

As always, Lichfield Town Crier Ken Knowles was a highlight, excellently suited to carry off the role of Bottom, generating a lot of laughs with his animatronic donkey ears and fake teeth.

While Robin Lewitt played a fantastic, mischievous Puck, and Hannah Wyss, Jennifer Austen, Patrick Jervis and Layla Shirley were also excellent.

Featuring dry ice, fairies climbing trees, oil garden lanterns, live music, singing and contemporary dance, RSC costumes, fireworks and fairy dust sprayed over characters and the audience, this two-and a-half hour play was a hit with both young and old.

This is one of the best open air Shakespeare performances I have ever seen.


Romeo & Juliet

Magical Feel to Classic Tragedy

Review by Justine Halifax for the Birmingham Mail - June 2014

Shakespeare In The Park's latest outdoor performance of Romeo and Juliet is simply superb.

Set in a picturesque, colourfully lit, woodland clearing, with an almost magical feel, the group's 2014 annual production is fantastic.

It was against a fabulous, professional-looking set, that this classic tragedy of forbidden love played out and kept an audience, of young and old (perched on hay bales), gripped for three hours.

But it was the acting calibre of Stuart Goodwin in the role of Lord Capulet that shone out as the highlight of the evening.

His ability to switch and convey different emotions within a split second was outstanding, realistic and certainly worthy of a professional spot on a West End stage. His torture, and tears on finding his daughter Juliet dead, as he believes, in her bed was so convincing that it pulled on the heartstrings.

And he wasn't the only one of this talented cast that gave strong performances.

Robin Lewitt was excellent and thoroughly entertaining as the bawdy and playful Mercutio (Romeo's friend), while Lucy Bishop, in the role of Juliet, and Patrick Jervis as Romeo were confident in their star crossed pairing, and Ken Knowles (Lichfield's town crier) made a great Escalus.

Once again under the direction of David Stonehouse, this production is yet another high flying feather in the cap of this Lichfield-based group (which donates all proceeds to charity) in a wonderful, annual summer tradition, that is now remarkably in its 32nd year.

The last time the group performed Romeo and Juliet was back in 1991.

The Tempest

Enter an Enchanted World

Review by Justine Halifax for the Birmingham Mail - June 2013

Shakespeare in the Park's open air performance of The Tempest was simply superb.

Set in the picturesque grounds of the Italian gardens at Maple Hayes in Lichfield this glade proved perfect to transport the audience into the enchanted world of Prospero.

With a professional set, lighting, sound and production, the group has pulled off yet another magnificent performance, as we've come to expect with a modern twist, to mark its 30th anniversary.

While the whole cast should be praised for its professionalism and talent, Chris Stanley's portrayal of the tormented and cursed Caliban, the child of dead witch Sycorax who has been enslaved by Prospero, is absolutely brilliant. His delivery was both convincing and perfect. Teamed up with Shakespeare in the Park stalwart Ken Knowles as a constantly drunken Stephano, butler to Alonso, the King of Naples, and Terry Sharrock, as Trinculo, Alsonso's jester, this trio were comic genius.

While David Stonehouse plays a wonderful sorcerer Prospero, exiled Duke of Milan, alongside the younger talents of the four spirits of Ariel (Danielle Harper, Ellie Gavin, Katy Clarke, Sammie Richards).

With a little audience participation and fireworks to top of the evening, I urge you not to miss the run of this two-and-a-half-hour play that ends tonight.