A blistering summer, with a run of 21 performances, has seen the long overdue return of sunshine and soliloquies to London’s garden squares.
Nothing can take from the joy, excitement or storied history of London’s theatreland. Dining at the Ivy or having a drink at Mr Fogg’s then meandering to the Apollo or the Palladium will be a fond and familiar memory for many. Having launched careers and played host to some of the longest-running productions in the world, the West End is the spiritual home of theatre.
However, a select group of mavericks have been championing London’s outdoor theatre scene. Shakespeare in the Squares aims to bring the work of the Bard out into a brighter, greener setting while celebrating the history and heritage of some of the city’s most prestigious private gardens.
A Not For Profit organisation, the production company aims to open up these spaces and bring communities together through a shared love of theatre. Every summer, a new production of a Shakespeare play is toured around London’s garden squares. However, the initiative endured a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic.
The Tempest, a story centred on social justice and isolation but ultimately about love and forgiveness, was the chosen play this summer and provides themes pertinent to today’s world. As the dust settles on the production, Shakespeare has returned to 18 squares and brought local communities together across the city. This sense of unity, and getting to know your neighbours despite living in the city, is at the core of Shakespeare in the Squares’ ethos.
The company was founded by publishing professionals and theatre aficionados Martin Neild and Sue Fletcher. Martin explained the idea behind the initiative to Domus Nova: “Our aim is to provide a showcase for young and emerging actors as well as established names in the theatre, and to put on joyful, accessible productions filled with music and dance. The idea is to appeal both to dedicated theatregoers and to people who are enjoying a Shakespeare play for the first time.”
Shakespeare in the Squares aims to reframe the stories in a new and innovative way. The Tempest, for example, was reimagined in a 1950s setting. Furthermore, rather than walking the boards, actors walk on the same grass that the audience sits on. This removal of any physical barrier serves to humanise the characters and bring the action closer.
Martin continues: “Each performance becomes a community celebration for the audiences who live around the squares and for those who come from outside to enjoy these beautiful and sometimes unseen spaces. The actors involve the audiences through comedy and audience participation and it has been noticeable how many children have enjoyed the productions.”
To take William Shakespeare into idyllic gardens and other iconic spaces offers a great opportunity to engage new and non-traditional audiences of all ages.
- Dame Judi Dench, Patron of Shakespeare in the Squares
Domus Nova has been a lead sponsor of Shakespeare in the Squares since its inception in 2016. We work collaboratively with the team on communications, collateral and organisation. This summer, we also organised hampers for raffle winners for eight performances in seven squares around our neighbourhood of Notting Hill.
We give thanks to all the local businesses who contributed to the hampers:
Domus Nova would like to give special thanks to Gas&Air Studios for kindly supplying furniture and to the Shakespeare in the Squares team for their unwavering dedication in the pursuit of bringing theatre to a broader audience.