Thursday, 11 December 2014

Meet the Cinderella cast: Alex Spinney

Alex Spinney
This week our meet the cast interview is with Alex Spinney, who is starring as Prince Charming. As Alex is new to Stafford we thought  it was time to get to know him better...

Stafford Gatehouse Theatre:What attracted you to our Rock 'n' Roll Panto?

Alex Spinney: The rock 'n' roll pantomimes combine really great music with very funny scripts and it is so exciting to work with such a small cast, with all of us playing, singing, acting and even dancing!

SGT: What instruments are you playing in the show?

AS: Alto saxophone and piano.

SGT: What are you most looking forward to in the show?
Alex in action as Prince Charming

AS: I'm most looking forward to singing some rock 'n' roll classics, and of course gettung up close and personal with the lovely Cinderella!

What do you think audiences will particularly enjoy this year?

AS:  I think audiences will love Hernia and Verruca, the beautifully ugly stepsisters.

SGT: Why do you think panto has remained such a popular tradition?

AS: It is a truly British institution that gives audiences the chance to let loose and relax over Christmas.

Cinderella is now open and runs until January 10th 2015.
You can book your tickets here - but hurry they're selling fast!

Friday, 5 December 2014

Meet The Cinderella cast: Beth Peach-Robinson

Beth Peach-Robinson
The lovely Beth Peach-Robinson made her panto debut last year as Princess Susie and is back playing the title role in Cinderella in this year's Rock 'n' Roll Panto. We caught up with the West Midlands born actress to talk about this year's show.

Stafford Gatehouse Theatre: What made you decide to come back this year?

Beth Peach-Robinson: I find being surrounded by so many talented people so inspiring and it's so fun to do something that makes Christmas extra special.

SGT: Can you tell us what instruments you will be playing in the show?

B P-R: Alto saxaphone, tenor saxaphone and baritone saxaphone.

Beth as Princess Susie in Sleeping Beauty

SGT: What are you most looking forward to in the show this year?

B P-R: I'm really looking forward to my magical transformation and I think audience will really enjoy our ugly sisters!

SGT: Why do you think Panto has remained such a popular tradition?

B P-R: Because it is always full on songs that audiences long and everyone loves a bit of "he's behind you" audience participation!

SGT: Have you got any pre-show rituals?

B P-R: I dance around like a crazy person to my favourite 90's tunes!

SGT: That sounds like a pretty fun ritual to us! Break a leg for opening night next week Beth!

Cinderella opens to schools on Wednesday 10th December and the first evennig public performance is on Friday 12th December. The show runs until Saturday 10th Janaury and you can book your tickets by clicking here.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Meet the As You Like It Cast: Georgina White

Georgina White
Today's meet the cast is with Georgina White, who has been receiving critical acclaim for her role of Rosalind in this year's SFS production. She also performed with us in Twelfth Night in 2009 and A Midsummer Night's Dream in 2013. Here's what she had to say about returning to Stafford Castle...
Stafford Gatehouse Theatre: How does it feel to be part of SFS again Georgina?

Georgina White: I'm very excited to be part of such a wonderful team.

SGT: What made you want to be involved again?

GW: Having done SFS before I know how brilliant the show is and that we are guaranteed a gorgeous summer come rain or shine! I love working with Peter Rowe (Director) and Greg Palmer (Musical Director) and the Gatehouse Team. Rosalind has always been a dream role for me.I also LOVE Stafford and feel at home here!

SGT: Have you performed at any other unusual venues? 

GW: Buckingham Palace.

SGT: Could you tell us a bit more about Rosalind?

GW: She makes the most of being banished to the forest by dressing up as a man, and she totally delights in it! Rosalind is so complex in her emotions and contains such an anarchic recklessness that there is drama where ever she goes. She is madly in love with Orlando and desicdes to teach him lessons in love and toy with him in her disguise.

Georgina, as Rosalind.

SGT: What do you think Rosalind adds to the play?

GW: She is a heroine of such intelligence, wit and practicality that you can't help but admire her. She's totally dramatic and crazy, but with a naughty side and a cheeky glint in her eye too. I think she portrays herself in such a way that everyone can identify with a certain part of her character.

SGT: Do you believe in love at first sight like the characters in As You Like It do?

GW: No! But I believe in lust at first sight, and this is certainly true for Rosalind and Orlando. This lust gradually progresses into a deep love.
SGT: What do you think the audience will enojy the most about this year's setting?

GW: The gorgeous 60s music, the humour, the drama, the cross-dressing and the sheer absurdity of the play! Everyone goes a little bit bonkers in the Forest of Arden...

Georgina is performing in As You Like It at Stafford Castle until July 12th.


Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Meet The As You Like It Cast: Esther Biddle

Esther Biddle
Today's meet the cast interview is with Esther Biddle, who is playing Pheobe in As You Like It. Pheobe is pursued by Silvius, but Pheobe in turn only has eyes for Ganymede, blissfully unaware that Ganymede is actually Rosalind in disguise!

Esther first performed with SFS in 2011 so we caught up with her to see how she what she was looking forward to most this year.

Stafford Gatehouse Theatre: SFS is now one of the largest Shakespeare events in Europe, how do you feel about being part of it this year?

Esther Biddle: Great! It's one of the best open air events.

SGT: What made you want to perform with SFS again?

EB: It's always such fun and enjoyed so much by the public. I get to spend time with great mates and I just love it up here!

SGT: Have you performed at any other castles or any unusual venues?

EB: I've done a play at the top of the 'Gherkin' building in London!

Esther as Pheobe
SGT: You're playing Pheobe in As You Like It, what is she like?

EB: She's tricksy. And Welsh. And a bit like Bonnie Tyler. She's also massively ungenerous with Silvius (played by James Haggie)

SGT: What do you think Pheobe brings to the play? 

EB: Comedic joy and some light relief!
SGT: What do you think audiences will enjoy this year?

EB: The comedy of the mistaken identities and the music.

As You Like It opens this Sunday and runs until Saturday 12th July at Stafford Castle.



Friday, 20 June 2014

Meet The As You Like It Cast: John Challis

John Challis
The legendary John Challis has returned to SFS to take on the role of Jacques, a truly melancholy character who delivers the famous "all the world's a stage" speech. 

There's certainly more to him than being Boycie from Only Fools and Horses - he's performed in many other iconic places including Broadway and Regent Park's Open Air Theatre. We spoke to John to find out more...

 Stafford Gatehouse Theatre: How are you feeling about being part of SFS again John?

John Challis: Terrified and excited at the same time!

SGT: What made you want to be involved with SFS again?

JC: I played Malvolio in Twelfth Night and found it a rewarding experience, it is out of my comfort zone and I think I have got away with it! Jacques is a role I have always wanted to attempt, and to be part of such a talented company is a real treat.

SGT: Tell us a little bit more about Jacques...

JC:  Jacques is a "melancholic" in Elizabethan terms, possibly a "neurotic" in today's terms. He sees himself as a satirist - "cleansing the foul infested world" with his wit.

SGT:  What do you think Jacques brings to the play?

JC: As a malcontent he brings a counter point to the romantic musical comedy of the story with his intellectualizing and sardonic observations.

SGT: Do you believe in love at first sight like Celia and Oliver?

JC: Certainly, but one hopes it will last!
SGT: And finally, what do you think the audience will enjoy most about this year's production and setting?

JC: It's got everything - wonderful original music, romance, comedy and at times a slightly dark side. Also it is set around the summer of love in the 60s so perhaps a fair amount of nostalgia!

You can see John Challis in As You Like It at Stafford Castle from Sunday 29th June until Saturday 12th July.

John Challis as Jacques with Tom Radford as Orlando

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Meet The As You Like It Cast: Shirley Darroch

Shirley Darroch
Today's meet the cast is with Shirley Darroch, who last year won Beat Supporting Actress at the Manchester Theatre Awards for her role as Mama Morton in Chicago. It's also her first time performing with SFS and she will be taking on the role of Audrey.

Stafford Gatehouse Theatre: How are you feeling about your first SFS performance?

Shirley Darroch: I'm so excited about doing open air Shakespeare! I can't wait to be in that wonderful setting. I love Shakespeare, I studied it at university before becoming an actor, so it's a double whammy!

SGT: Have you ever performed in the grounds of a castle or any other unusual setting before?

SD: I once did a site specific version of Howard Barker's "Seven Lears" in a club. The toilets flooded because the sewage system was blocked, urgh! I also got a kidney infection from having to eat apples from the ground in a playpark early in my career. I'm sure SFS will be a much better experience!

SGT: What is Audrey like as a character?

SD: She's a wee laugh! She's is a bawdy country wench looking for love. She is fascinated by Touchstone the fool (played by Eric Potts) and I think, sees him as a bit of a meal ticket. She is coquettush and histrionic!

SGT: What do you think audiences will enjoy this year in particular?

SD: The 60s "crowd-around-a-bonfire-and-sing" vibe and some great actors!

Shirley will be performing at Stafford Castle in As You Like It from Sunday 29th June to Saturday 12th July.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Meet The As You Like It Cast: Tom Radford

Friday's meet the cast is with Tom Radford, who will be playing Orlando. Here's what he had to say ahead of his first Stafford Festival Shakespeare appearance...

Tom Radford
Stafford Gatehouse Theatre:  Hi Tom, how are you feeling about your first performance with SFS?

Tom Radford: Excited, ecstatic, elated and other words beginning with E!

SGT: So what made you want to get involved?

TR: It was a great chance to play a part I've wanted to play for a long time.

SGT:  Have you performed any open air Shakespeare before?

TR: Never in a castle but I have done an open air Shakespeare before and did a scene on a tree swing which was fun!

SGT: Could you tell us a little bit more about Orlando?

TR: He is the youngest son of the Duke who starts the play under the strict (and unfair) watch of his older brother Oliver. Orlando knows he is not the wittiest of people and relies on his instinct.

SGT: What do you think Orlando brings to the play?

TR: I think Orlando brings an outsider's point of view to the play. He starts off as an outsider in his own home, then becomes an outsider in the forest but this soon seems to become a much more suitable home for him.

SGT: What do you think the audience will enjoy most about this year's production and setting?

TR: The music, the silliness, the love and the picnics! 

You can see Tom perform in As You Like It at Stafford Castle from Sunday 29th June until Saturday 12th July.


Monday, 2 June 2014

Meet the As You Like It cast: Johnson Willis

Johnson Willis
Happy Monday! Today's meet the cast interview is with Johnson Willis, who will be playing Adam and Corin when this year's SFS production opens at Stafford Castle. Here's what he had to say about returning to SFS following his performance in 2011's The Comedy of Errors...

Stafford Gatehouse Theatre: Hi Johnson, what made you want to perform with SFS again?

Johnson Willis: Previous experience told me that it would be great fun and with such a wonderful play it was not to be missed. It's a thrill to be part of this event again and such a rare opportunity to perform work of this kind to such a large audience. The audiences are also always very appreciative which makes the whole experience very rewarding. 

SGT: Tell us about the two characters you play, Adam and Corin?

JW: Adam is an old servant and he brings a link to the old world of play before the political change took place, when people had very different values of service and responsibility. Corin is similar in that his world is that of the country and he has his own peace in a world of order, with a lack of greed, envy and malice.

SGT: Celia and Oliver fall in love at first sight, is this something you believe in?

JW: Yes. Love can be instantaneous because someine is immediately felt to be trustworthy, kind and open. This is not to be confused with instantaneous lust.

SGT: What do you think people will enjoy most about this year's show? 

JW: As You Like It is going to be very musical, containing more songs than any of Shakespeare's other plays. The music is accessible and instant and energising. There is a lot of comedy and a gerat variety of characters. The setting is also well suited to the open-air taking place mostly in the Forest of Arden.

As You Like It opens on Sunday 29th June and runs until Saturday 12th July at Stafford Castle

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Meet the As You Like It Cast: Jennifer Greenwood

For the next few weeks we will be posting regaular interviews with our cast of As You Like It to get 
Jennifer Greenwood
to know them better before their show at Stafford Castle! To kick things off we spoke to Jennifer Greenwood, who is returning to SFS to play Celia after her critically acclaimed performance as Hermia in last year's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Stafford Gatehouse Theatre: Stafford Festival Shakespeare is one of the largest open air Shakespeare events in Europe, how do you feel about being part of the show this year?

Jennifer Greenwood: Extremely proud and excited: open air theatre is such a unqiue experience for an actor. Being back in Stafford is also so lovely, it's like coming home.

 SGT: The show takes place in a very unique setting, have you performed anywhere else unusual?

JG: My first job was a theatre in education tour where I performed to 250 South East London children at a time in their school hall...a little less glamorous but under cover at least!

SGT: What made you want to be involved in the show again?

JG: Celia is such a challenging role as she moves from comedy to tragedy, fromm prose to verse constantly. She is also a bit of a mystery as she doesn't speak for the whole of Act V and falls in love at first sight! I also wanted to come back as the cast and crew were amazing!

Jennifer as Hermia in 2013's A Midsummer Night's Dream

SGT: Tell us a little more about Celia?

JG: She's the daughter of Duke Frederick who usurps his older brother (Celia's Uncle) and then banishes Celia's cousin Rosalind. Celia is incredibly loyal and so follows Rosalind into the Forest of Arden in disguise. She's very funny and witty and teases Rosalind mercilessly over her love for Orlando.

SGT: What do you think Celia brings to the play?

JG: Comedy, but propriety. She thinks Rosalind takes her game too far with Orlando. She's also quite exhausted by the end, and there is the added love at first sight story line!

SGT: Do you believe in love at first sight?

JG: Speaking as Celia...yes. Speaking as Jen...perhaps. I was friends with my fiancè before we were a couple, but the night we first kissed I knew he was the man I wanted to marry.

SGT: What do you think the audience will enjoy most about this year's show?

JG: The 60s songs and setting really brings the play off the page. The story telling by Peter the Director and the cast will be exquisite.

As You Like It opens on Sunday 29th June and runs until Saturday 12th July at Stafford Castle.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Sam Simkin: SGYT's award winning playwright

Sam with his award winning script

Stafford Gatehouse Youth Theatre member Sam Simkin may only be 14 years old but not only has he begun scriptwriting he has just been awarded Most Promising Young Playwright in the Trinity College International Playwriting Competition, which had hundreds of entries from 25 countries. We met with Sam to find out more. 

Stafford Gatehouse Theatre: Hi Sam, tell us a little about yourself and how long you have been with SGYT:

Sam: I joined SGYT in 2012 after taking part in Summer School for the first time that year. I also joined MYTS (Musical Youth Theatre Stafford) that year too and currently study at BOA (Birmingham Ormiston Academy) It all spiralled off the back of the summer school production of Peter Pan!

SGT: What made you start writing and enter the competition?

Sam: The year I joined Summer School was when I discovered I liked script writing. I wrote a few things, I think you have to keep writing to get up to a good standard and have written seven plays so far. The ideas are always in the back in my mind. I wrote a play for Gnosall Players for the Gnosall Festival called The Community Centre which was a comedy play, and after I wrote that I took a break to find my style. I like plays with comedy which also tackle an issue. My sister spotted the advert for the playwriting competition in Stafford Library, and when I started at BOA I had an hour to wait at the train station every morning so started working on it then. There was a very long, painful waiting period after submitting it, then I finally received an email from them when I wasn’t expecting it. I thought it was going to say “thanks for submitting but you weren’t successful” but it actually said “Dear Sam, well done you are a most promising playwright”, I felt numb for a while! 

SGT: What is your play about?

Sam: It’s for young performers; the category was specifically for 12-16 year olds. With that category it would seem like it would limit what you can write about, but actually that age group don’t need things dumbing down. I’m in the middle of that age category so I thought if I understood what I was writing about then others in my age group would too!

My play is called When Darkness Falls, it’s a comedy play but tackles a big issue of homelessness and murder, focusing on a 16 year old boy called Alex.

SGT: It’s very different to the usual thing written for or by teenagers.

Sam: I’m in the knowledge that we’re not thick, teenagers can handle difficult issues. Also we need to know about these things! If you write with an overlaying theme of comedy it’s easier to face the tough issues in the play.

SGT: What are your short and long term plans? 

Sam: I’m currently writing two scripts as I’m always writing and having new ideas! In the long term I want to be a primary school teacher but always have scriptwriting as a constant extra.

SGT: Are there any playwrights who have influenced you?

Sam: Believe it or not I don’t really read plays, I’m more of a musical person actually! I love the musical Parade and the book is so well conceived and put together, so that’s the one book of a musical that I’ve loved reading.

SGT: Thanks for speaking to us Sam and congratulations again!

You can find out more about Sam’s award winning play When Darkness Falls and his other work on his Twitter account @SamSimkinScript

Sam will also be performing in the SGYT production of Alice By Heart, in The MET Studio Wednesday 4th – Friday 7th June. You can book your tickets here