After a breakout debut season that saw thousands of Canberrans flock to lakeside theatres around town for the rare chance to experience top quality outdoor theatre, Shakespeare by the Lake is back.
In February 2018, Much Ado About Nothing was staged to over 4,200 people across four nights in three locations; utilising Canberra’s abundance of public parks as open theatres, and providing another outlet for our outstanding local live theatre talent.
The concept was initiated by members of Canberra’s theatre community, including Duncan Driver, Lexi Sekuless and Taimus Werner-Gibbings, who wanted to establish a company to make Shakespeare’s works more accessible to the people of Canberra.
Their second season, commencing on 15 February, will see six performances of another of the Baird’s famous romantic comedies, Twelfth Night, across four locations.
To double down on the success of their first season, Shakespeare by the Lake have enlisted renowned Sydney-based television and stage actor Chris Stollery to direct.
A highly experienced Shakespearian actor, Stollery’s resume includes numerous tours with Bell Shakespeare throughout the 1990s and 2000s.
Stollery told Canberra Weekly he joined Shakespeare by the Lake this season in part due to his affinity for performing Shakespeare outdoors.
“You can go and see some of the major companies and pay $100 a ticket, and it just becomes unaffordable; it’s out of reach for most people and this is meant to be popular entertainment.
“It’s wonderful to let loose from the polite confines of a theatre and just have it all outdoor in the open,” he said.
“The writing really matches that … It’s a big style that Shakespeare requires, which really suits an outdoor setting. His theatres were basically outdoor anyway.”
Stollery said the characters in Shakespearean comedies are different to a lot of other, more politically-driven texts.
“He really observed individual people, and didn’t seem to have a political bent, so the plays become infinitely malleable to the time.
“There are some very hot topics that percolate up in this play around gender roles, status, manipulation … and, of course, the perennial question of how inconvenient falling in love is.”
He rates Twelfth Night as one of the Baird’s classic romantic-comedies.
“It’s got some classic tropes of Shakespeare; a woman disguised as a man, who enters a man’s world and has to pretend, and audiences delight in being in on that.
“It’s about turning things on its head, and that’s part of the reason why it’s still entertaining 400 years later.”
The 2019 season will debut with a paid performance at Lanyon Homestead on 15 February, and will be followed by free shows at Tuggeranong Town Park on 21-22 February; matinee and evening performances at Glebe Park on 23 February; and their final show at the Patrick White Lawns on 24 February.
The Lanyon Homestead performance will be an exclusive, one-off, ticketed event starting at $50. To organise the venue, Shakespeare by the Lake partnered with ACT Historic Places and have adapted Twelfth Night especially for the location.
The Lanyon performance will also include a Q&A with director Christopher Stollery, hosted by ABC Radio presenter, Laura Tchilinguirian.
Stollery said he’s spent a lot of time performing in Canberra throughout his career, and has an affinity for local audiences.
“We had a very loyal following with Bell, and clearly given Shakespeare by the Lake’s success last year, those people are still around.”
Shakespeare by the Lake’s performances of Twelfth Night will be held at Lanyon Homestead on 15 February; Tuggeranong Town Park on 21-22 February; Glebe Park on 23 February; and Patrick White Lawns on 24 February. Bookings required for all performances (paid and free) via eventbrite.com.au