Theatre preview: Bard in the Botanics 2015
Outdoor Shakespeare festival returns with two rare treats: Richard II and Love's Labour's Lost
‘I think we're in a unique position at Bard in the Botanics,’ says artistic director Gordon Barr. ‘Because we're now Scotland's biggest producer of Shakespeare, our audiences are really keen to experience the full range of his work, and that gives us the opportunity to stage plays like Love's Labour's Lost or Richard II which no one else has done in Scotland for decades, if ever.’
A fixture of the Glasgow summer, Bard in the Botanics is indeed bringing what Barr calls 'Lesser Spotted Shakespeare' to the West End's Botanic Gardens for 2015. His direction of Love’s Labour’s Lost is the first production of the play in Scotland for half a century, while Jennifer Dick directs the first Scottish professional version of Richard II. Alongside an adaptation of A Midsummer’s Night Dream and an update of The Merchant of Venice, this year’s season shows the breadth of the company’s dynamism, matching favourites alongside the unfamiliar.
In recent years, BITB has been expanding – its shows now often tour beyond the Gardens – and the festival now takes an increasingly imaginative approach to the scripts. The Merchant of Venice has been relocated to 1930s Germany, emphasising the anti-semitism expressed by some of the characters, while Love’s Labour’s Lost's promenade format uses the Botanics ‘not just as a backdrop but almost as another character in the play’.
While the company are close to having performed Shakespeare’s entire canon, Barr explains that they are concerned with making the work accessible, holding the tradition and finding new ways to play. 'We like to mix it up with new takes on popular titles,' he explains, 'so a more "obscure" play like Love's Labour's will play opposite Emily Reutlinger's new feminist reimagining of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Creating a programme which has something for everyone, from complete newcomers to Shakespeare fanatics, is really the core of our work.’
Bard in the Botanics 2015:
Love's Labour's Lost, Wed 24 Jun–Thu 11 Jul
A Midsummer Night's Dream, Tue 2–Thu 11 Jul
Richard II, Tue 21 Jul–Sat 1 Aug
The Merchant of Venice, Thu 16 Jul–Sat 1 Aug
All performances are at Glasgow Botanic Gardens.