28 July 2017
A late midsummer play in the garden
Last weekend saw the gardens come to life as well over 150 people came to enjoy some Shakespeare in the garden. We usually host a play in the garden theatre around mid summer when the garden is at a natural high point; the roses are in full bloom and the cottage garden is reaching that first peak of the year as the fresh young growth begins to harden and flowers are abundant. This year the weekend closest to mid summer was just about perfect, with warm sunshine long into the evening, which got me a little worried. Would the weather be as kind to us in late July?
For the last few years the night of the play has always been a blessed moment, where long warm summer evenings and rose fragrance compliment the performance and show off the garden in its best light. That's not always been the case though as one year's Romeo and Juliet performance was met with tempest!
Last week, as a busied myself in the garden, the omens did not look promising; torrential rain was forecast for the day before the play and as the weekend drew nearer rain was forecast for Saturday as well. The garden of course was very grateful for the inch and a half of rain that fell but I must confess to being rather worried about what it would all mean for the grass!
When Saturday came and I was woken to the sound of heavy rain my heart sank and as the day wore on and showers persisted I wondered if anyone would brave the weather at all. But then something rather unexpected and amazing happened; the clouds broke and the sun suddenly shone through, this was about six o clock, an hour before the play was due to begin!
When I arrived the garden was full of cheerful faces, picnic hampers and folding chairs. The HandleBards, our performers for the evening, so named because they travel from show to show on bikes, were set up and ready to go. A Midsummer Night's Dream has rather more parts than the four HandleBards could play, yet through some very clever, and frankly hilarious, devices they put on a performance that will stay with me for a very long time. I had heard good things about their productions but I was not prepared for just how entertaining they would be. The energy, the camaraderie and the physicality of their performance created a show that seemed to defy reason. It was brilliant and I dearly hope that they will be back next year.
The earlier rain meant that when the setting sun shone through the damp garden the effect was so much more dramatic and beautiful than it would have been had the day have been clear. Somehow everything came together beautifully, perhaps with the exception of a brief appearance on stage by a rather scruffy looking man who was plucked from the audience to deliver a few lines. (I had hoped that no photographs were taken, but alas…..you should be able to spot me - alongside a few other AMGD team members - if you look closely enough.)
Words: Steve Lannin, Head Gardener, Allt-y-bela
Photographs: Holly Fleming & Jennie Spears