Bard In the Botanics: 'The unique pleasures of a theatre that lacks the usual walls'
- Gareth K Vile
- 21 June 2019
Glasgow's Botanic Garden's annual outdoor Shakespeare programme returns with new versions of Hamlet, Richard III and Henry V
Now entering its 18th year, and still committed to a vision of Shakespeare that pays respect to his scripts while adding a contemporary aesthetic, Bard in the Botanics continues its enthusiasm for gender equality in its 'Muse of Fire' season. With Nicole Cooper playing the role of Hamlet, and Henry V and Richard III exploring political machinations in a timely manner, artistic director Gordon Barr promises another selection of classic plays with the company's distinctive identity.
'Shakespeare is a great humanist,' he says. 'He touches something universal in the human spirit.' Barr's approach, grounded in a knowledge of the Bard's context but recognising the value of modern adaptations, challenges the belief that Shakespeare is exclusive. 'The structure and the cultural baggage does create a barrier, but outdoor theatre can break down a lot of those barriers.'
To further challenge those obstacles, Bard in the Botanics developed a distinctive style of staging and a commitment to gender equality: 'For the last three or four years, we committed to a 50/50 gender split,' he says, adding that this is not mere gender swapping. In the production of Hamlet, 'what happens to this story if it is told through the perspective of a female character?' he asks. Rather than tokenism, this allows a new interpretation to emerge, without betraying the power of Shakespeare's language.
As a familiar, even venerable part of the Glasgow theatre year, Bard in the Botanics offers an opportunity to revisit familiar plays, be challenged by imaginative interpretations and indulge in the unique pleasures of a theatre that lacks the usual walls.
Glasgow Botanic Gardens, Wed 26 Jun–Sat 3 Aug.