This week The Castle Players perform their annual play by William Shakespeare. This year the play they are doing is "As You Like It". As everyone knows, the weather has been atrocious: the lawn behind the Bowes Museum is sodden and now rutted and gouged by the big lorries which delivered the huge Grandstands to their places and all the other vehicles bringing tents and other equipment to the Outdoor Theatre. But the Show Must Go On! The Players are proud of the fact that in all the years they have been performing they have never cancelled a performance because of the weather.
The performance area is open grassland dominated by a magnificent ancient fir tree, with a circle of trees as a backdrop. It also was sodden, and much sport was had with a sheet of green plastic which was placed on the ground if the play called for someone to fall on the ground. Such as the moment when the leading lady was about to faint - we could all see that she was fainting and held up by two stalwarts at an acute angle until a third gentleman placed the green plastic below her, and then the two stalwarts just dropped her - THUMP -onto the ground! The Players as usual gave wonderful performances, the action was nonstop in two halves and always interesting; many were the guffaws and giggles amongst the audience.
Since shepherds and shepherdesses were a big part of the plot, two sheep (Lincolnshire Longwools) had major parts in the action, at least they were in a pen at one side of the arena. One, called Bert, had an occasional speaking part, baaing at the sound of his mistress's voice, leading to much amusement among the audience! Bert gave an interview about himself, and this is what he had to say:
Myself and my brothers Johnny and James are delighted to be taking to the stage with The Castle Players in As You Like It and readily accepted the parts (afier negotiating our contracts, of course - namely how much food would be involved). I am a sheep of some repute, having gained fame (definitely NOT notoriety) throughout the area for my particular skills as an escape artist and petty food thief I have decided to put my considerable talents to better use however, and am very excited about becoming the world’s first sheep actor I am currently a foster father to an orphan foal on the farm, and hope to inspire her to continue in my footsteps. I have taken a method approach to this part, which has mainly involved eating, breathing, and living being a sheep. I have found this easy, which I imagine is largely due to my incredible acting talents rather than anything else. As soon as this show finishes we are all off to Hollywood to start work on a new film so unfortunately will be unable to perform at Stratford next week. Bert
Indeed, The Castle Players have been invited to Stratford-upon-Avon, the home of Mr Shakespeare himself and The Royal Shakespeare Company; they will perform the second half of As You Like It at The Dell on Saturday July 22nd - a huge honour for them and very justified!