Venues across East and West Sussex have had a choice of hosting Jane Eyre or The Secret Garden or both. Many of them have gone for the double over the weeks to come.
Ethan Taylor and Simon Stallard were half of the four-strong company for The Tempest and Treasure Island; they return for the next two shows, this time with Lily Smith and Madeline Hatt making up the foursome.
The Tempest and Treasure Island finished touring on July 4. After a couple of weeks of rehearsals, the new tour hits the road on July 23.
“It is pretty full on, but we are very grateful,” Ethan says. “And people are leaping at the chance to come and see some theatre. The only real caution has been the weather. We had lovely heat and beautiful clear skies and lovely sun for a while, but then we had a couple of wet shows. But we carry on. We only ever stop if it is deemed unsafe. We carry on in the rain and the audience are always on your side for that.”
As for the choice of plays: “We are doing them outdoors and with the shift in theatre generally to open air, we have been focusing a bit more on shows that revolve around the English countryside, particularly The Secret Garden.
“We play in the open air. We have trees around us. We were in a forest the other day. It just works really well.
“A lot of the venues have committed themselves to having both shows.
“Both are family friendly. The Secret Garden is obviously more family friendly for all ages and Jane Eyre is obviously a bit darker and a bit more brooding.”
And for the company, it is all great fun. They toured last summer and learnt plenty of important lessons, just how to make things work in these troubled times.
“We are very strict. We are still absolutely on the nose with all the regulations, but actually people seem to have become more relaxed.
“At the end the audience will come up and want to shake your hand, and you say ‘No, you can’t do that.’ And they will say ‘But I have had both my vaccines!’ but you still can’t do it. We have still got to be very, very careful.
“But actually, most people are very clear about how it all operates and about what we have got in place to make sure that the audiences are safe and that the cast is safe, and fortunately none of that really impacts on the actual show. And we are getting a lot of feedback from people saying how safe they feel and just thanking us for doing it and thanking us for opening up. For a lot of people this is the first live theatre they will have seen in such a long time.
“And it is a great way back into the theatre for them especially if the show is just down the road from them.”
Forthcoming shows include:
July 23, 4pm – Jane Eyre, Upper Beeding, The Paddock (open air)
July 25, 2pm – The Secret Garden, Hurstpierpoint, Danny House (open air)
July 25, 7pm – Jane Eyre, Hailsham, Michelham Priory (open air)
July 27, 3pm and 7.30pm, The Secret Garden, Chichester, The Guildhall
August 3, 2pm, The Secret Garden, Upper Beeding, The Paddock (open air)
August 3, 7.30pm, Jane Eyre Brighton, Preston Old Church
August 10, 3pm, The Secret Garden, Crawley, The Hawth Theatre (open air)
August 12, 7pm, The Secret Garden, Hailsham, Michelham Priory (open air)
August 17, 7pm, Jane Eyre, Hurstpierpoint, Danny House (open air)
August 21, 7pm, Jane Eyre, Crawley, The Hawth Theatre (open air)
August 29, 2pm, The Secret Garden, Brighton Open Air Theatre (open air)
Tickets and more details available on www.thisismytheatre.com