It’s the biggest walkabout theatre event in Britain and has been thrilling audiences for over 25 years… and it’s right on our doorstep at Lancaster House!
For the last few years I have had every intention of getting along to The Duke’s Play in the Park but it has come and gone amidst the flurry of other family responsibilities. Now that my darling teens-plus are doing their own thing, all of a sudden I have leisure to savour some of these ‘must-do-one-day-when-life-is-less-busy’ activities.
I love all aspects of the theatre, starting with the sense of anticipation on the journey there. Saturday, 4th July was no exception. The sun was shining after the previous day’s downpours and I had my supermarket ‘Bag for Life’ make-do ground sheet – just in case we didn’t get a log to sit on!
A short stroll from the entrance to Williamson Park, and Ashton Memorial reared up to greet us in all it’s Baroque splendour. We couldn’t stop long to enjoy the spectacular views over Lancaster with Morecambe Bay sparkling in the distance, before the crowd swept us along to ‘the Dell’, the first of five locations for this year’s play, Hansel & Gretel, and More Tales from the Forest.
Ulverston writer, Zosia Wand, recreates beautifully this timeless classic. She cleverly introduces enough of the original story so that you can nestle with comfortable familiarity into the script before its path is criss-crossed with well loved characters from a host of other tales. Be prepared to meet, amongst others, Puss the Cat, Rumplestiltskin looking for a son to love, the magnificent and quite reformed Wolf from Little Red Riding Hood, Goody Two Shoes the good fairy who has lost her Sleeping Beauty charge.
You will have your favourite characters – I had two. For me Gareth Cassidy’s portrayal of Sydney the Swan delighted in bringing a magnificent pomposity and loveable affectation to proceedings. However, it was Hero, the Frog Princess, that stole my heart. She was brought to life by Shelley Atkinson who managed a fabulous blend of Julie Walter’s ‘Mrs Overall’ and Patricia Routledge’s ‘Hyacinth Bucket’ to the character.
Jessica Baglow, who plays the role of Gretel, also starred as Karla Bentham for three years in Waterloo Road and Preston’s Joshua Miles played the role of Hansel in his first production for The Duke’s Theatre. Both give solid performances stoically maintaining the continuity of the story as it moves through the various locations. I am glad to report that once again in timeless fashion, good triumphs over evil and the wicked witch, played magnificently by Polly Lister, receives her due desserts.
Mention must be made of the lighting, music and effects which, along with the natural backdrop of the woods and lake, create an enchanting other world which envelopes the audience. This continued as we trailed between locations to the accompaniment of bird calls and eerie instrumentals causing the younger children to reach for the security of parents hands as dusk turned to dark.
Congratulations to all the cast and crew! This is a fabulous event for all the family! It runs until 16th August, so plenty of time to get your tickets.
For the more organised amongst us, make a day of it, and enjoy a pic-nic in the beautiful Williamson Park and if you are looking to extend your stay in Lancaster, stay at the 4 star Lancaster House hotel – just a short drive away from the park. The hotel currently has room only hot dates from £75.00 per night.
- Lancaster House Special Offers
- Lancaster House Reservations: 08458 509 508
- To book tickets ring The Dukes box office on: 01524 598500
- Written by +Tina Taylor