Weather is unpredictable at the best of times in Victoria, but that doesn’t deter the Shakespeare Society.
Neither rain, nor hail, nor daydreaming deer, nor hungry mosquitos will stop these dedicated thespians from spreading the word of the “Bard of Avon” — at least not very often. The festival’s artistic director Michael Glover says an average of one and a half performances are cancelled for any reason each year, because as they say, “the show must go on.”
“Anything can and will happen,” says Glover. “That just means that people have more fun. Even when helicopters flew over last year during a performance of Much Ado about Nothing, the cast — dressed in military garb — acted like it was part of the show, saluting them as they passed.”
The grounds at Camosun College’s Lansdowne Campus has been home to the festival for the last nine of 23 years. Home to three or four deer, Glover says they get slightly annoyed at the invasion of privacy, but often just stare blankly at the spectacle of having hundreds of people sitting in their livingroom.
“This is not a proscenium stage experience,” says Glover. “People love the magic of enjoying theatre in the outdoors on our grass stage.”
This year’s offerings include Measure for Measure (Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays), directed by Clayton Jevne and The Merry Wives of Windsor (Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays) directed by Kate Rubin.
Measure for Measure will be performed on the traditional grass stage, although this year’s audience will be pulled in tight around the thrust stage.
The Merry Wives of Windsor will be performed in the round, at Na’tsa’maht, the new Aboriginal gathering place on top of the slope overlooking Lansdowne Road. The space has a roof with walls open to the air.
“We’ve never really done theatre in the round before,” says Glover. “We’ve done wandering theatre and all kinds of different configurations … it will be interesting to see how we fill that space, the acoustics are much different but it’s exciting to try something new.”
The festival is almost completely run by volunteers, who start set up at least two weeks prior to opening night, which is July 15 this year.
Shows start at 7:30 p.m., so remember to bring blankets, chairs, mosquito spray, or anything else that will make your experience more comfortable. A small number of chairs and blankets are available on site, on a first-come-first-served basis.