SHAKESPEARE-IN-THE-PARK – The Last Decade
Shakespeare-in-the-Park started when local, professional actor Barrie Jaimeson, veteran of the well-known open-air theatre in Regents Park became involved in Maldon Town Council’s celebrations of the 400th Anniversary of William Shakespeare’s visit to Maldon with his King’s Players in 1603. Maldon District Council also came onboard and Barrie’s open-air production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Promenade Park, Maldon became the main event for this ‘Shakespeare Festival’ and the birth of the annual Shakespeare-in-the-Park had arrived. This has now established itself as a major event in the Maldon District unique to Mid-Essex.
The inaugural production in 2003 was in modern-dress with a large and enthusiastic group of ‘rude mechanicals’ assembling for rehearsals. The concept of the production was to show that Shakespeare is relevant to today and, above all, fun. The production had ‘punky’ fairies and a ‘New labour’ court. The 1930’s jazz setting of Twelfth Night followed in 2004 when macTheatre became a not-for-profit organisation then a traditional version of All’s Well That Ends Well 2005. These three productions all played in the picnic area in Promenade Park, Maldon.
All’s Well That Ends Well also toured to Edwin’s Hall, a private, Elizabethan house near South Woodham Ferrers as part of a local charity event to raise money for the local church. This beautiful house was once the home of Edwin Sandys – who was archbishop of both York and Canterbury during the reign of Elizabeth 1.
2006 saw the redevelopment of Promenade Park and the addition of a purpose-built amphitheatre. The Taming of the Shrew was the perfect christening of the new space – keeping in Elizabethean dress for another tour to Edwins Hall.
macmembers decided to return to A Midsummer Night’s Dream every 5th production so 2007 saw the return of this play with the fairy world designed as garden statues. Local Morris sides brought added merriment by joining in the final masque and Promenade Park amphitheatre became Shakespeare-in-the-Park’s home. Farmer’s Ale provided a beer tent and the event took up residence.
Time for macTheatre to present a tragedy and so Macbeth was the 2008 production set in the 11th Century with Scotland’s torn and broken country expressed in the ragged, bracken-coloured set from which the witches appeared. The Merry Wives of Windsor in 2009 brought the witty rogue Falstaff to the fore and much romping in and out of laundry baskets and cupboards! The Winter’s Tale next set in clinical Scicilia and vibrant Bohemia with the glorious excuse to exit pursued by a Bear. Richard III was bravely portrayed in 2011 to much acclaim which brings us full-circle to A Midsummer Night’s Dream inspired by Olympics and celebrating both London 2012 and macTheatre’s 10th anniversary of Shakespeare-in-the-Park.