Open air theatre fun with Pantaloons

TO hell with the curse, said touring theatre troupe The Pantaloons when they decided to bring their production of Macbeth to town – then it looks like it struck.

Actors have fallen ill, sets have burnt down and there have even been deaths when the “Scottish Play”, as it’s known in theatrical circles, hits stages.

Famous for being cursed – there’s an episode of Blackadder the Third that hangs on the fact if you don’t believe me – the company aren’t at all superstitious. However, it was a chilling coincidence when a cast member was taken ill.

“Just two days into rehearsals actor Helen Taylor, who was playing Lady Macbeth, had to be rushed into hospital in fits of pain for an emergency appendectomy,” says member Caitlin Storey.

“When they ran tests it turned out she had cancer of the appendix and she had an operation at the end of June. She now has the all clear and is recovering well.”

Described as part alternative rock band, part thespian, part performance art, the company have performed Macbeth – oops, I mean the Scottish Play – at various venues around the UK to rave reviews. It follows their hugely successful tour of Romeo and Juliet in 2009.

Ipswich, however, will be one of only a few places where the cast will be sharing their stage secrets at a drama workshop for all ages. You’ll be able to work with them and learn what it takes to be a Pantaloon – you may even be able to get a starring role.

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Mark Hayward, who hails from Ipswich, gave up a lucrative career in London to follow his dreams alongside fianc�e Caitlin of making theatre accessible to everyone.

“We’re ecstatic to perform our free Macbeth in Ipswich. Since I grew up here, this is something I’d have loved to have been a part of when I was younger.

“Our aim is to make Shakespeare, and indeed the theatre, accessible to everyone in terms of creativity and finance. It is the first time we have tackled such a serious production so it’ll be a challenge – not to mention the famous curse,” said the former Northgate High School student.

“We have performed in some of the worst scenarios, so the curse cannot make things any scarier, touch wood! The workshops are also a fantastic opportunity to work with some of the most talented people in the business with our unique Shakespearean-based workshops – they’re my favourite bit of the whole tour!”

The Pantaloons formed in 2004 and have steadily grown each year with their critically-acclaimed productions of The Winter’s Tale, Cymbeline, Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

They specialise in making the Bard enjoyable for everyone – from little children who enjoy the fat suits and bright colours to teenagers who may be studying Shakespeare and see a new life breathed into it. They also appeal to the die-hard fans with the inter-textual references and bring a fresh outlook to the work to adults who previously did not like Shakespeare but who now see how fun and enjoyable it can be.

With a cast of just five, this production is sure to put a smile on even the glummest face. It boasts audience interaction, contemporary references, puppets and original live music all nestled within the verse. While not dumbing down Shakespeare’s work, The Pantaloons bring a much more traditional element to it.

The Pantaloons will be at the town hall square on August 4 and Christchurch Mansion Lawn on August 18. The workshops run from 11am-12.30pm and performances at 1pm – both are free.