Bard in the Botanics 2014 revives Comedy of Errors and Henry V for outdoor Shakespeare season
Both plays will highlight Scottish angles, focusing on Independence and WWI respectively
Bard in the Botanics has become a venerable tradition in Glasgow's West End. 'It's year thirteen,' laughs artistic director Gordon Barr, 'but we are going to take that as lucky!' Running from the West End Festival and then into August, it is an annual celebration of how Shakespeare can even take on the weather, offering a mixture of works, opportunities for new performers to grapple with the pentameter and new ideas for interpreting classics.
'From year to year, myself and assistant artistic director Jennifer Dick will talk about titles we haven't tackled yet or looked at for a while and what kind of balance we want,' Barr explains. 'We wanted to tackle some of the questions that are floating around Glasgow and Scotland: and this involved looking at plays that are about identity, personal and national.'
In particular, Barr is directing Comedy of Errors with one eye on the referendum. He says that 'it is a little sly dig at the excesses that can develop when an issue like this is raised. In the play, there are two city-states that have a long standing feud and some of the rhetoric sounded familiar … vaguely reminiscent of Scotland and England!'
Dick, meanwhile, looks at the commemoration of World War I. 'Henry V has been on Jennifer's agenda for a while and she was looking at this concept of it as an end of school pageant. Then she realised she was staging it during the centenary of WWI. It gives us an opportunity to look at Shakespeare's big war epic in the light of the Scottish experience of that war.'
The thirteen years have not sapped Barr's enthusiasm. Asking himself 'what does telling this story now mean to our audiences?' drives his productions. 'We want to find the junctions where they fit with what is happening today. The reason the plays have survived so long is they have a universal quality.'
Botanic Gardens, Glasgow, Fri 27 Jun--Sat 12 Jul.