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Shakespeare in lockdown created for Bard in the Barn with Maidstone actor Aaron Sidwell

The curtain may have temporarily come down on theatres - even outdoor ones - but that hasn't stopped actors and directors getting creative.

Thespians from the county have been working on a series of short digital performances of Shakespeare, inspired by lockdown, for a fundraising initiative called Bard from the Barn.

Aaron Sidwell, in Eastenders (left) and as Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet with the Changeling Theatre
Aaron Sidwell, in Eastenders (left) and as Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet with the Changeling Theatre

Co-producer of the initiative with The Barn Theatre in Cirencester, is former EastEnder Aaron Sidwell, who lives in Maidstone, and appeared in the town's Changeling Theatre's production of Romeo and Juliet as Tybalt.

Among the directors putting their lockdown spin on Shakespeare with him has been Rob Forknall, artistic director of Maidstone-based theatre company, Changeling Theatre, which would have been marking its 20th year this summer, but the pandemic put paid to the planned tour.

He has helped create two performances so far - All the World's a Stage from As You Like It, performed by Stephen Omer, which is inspired by the Clap for Carers, and features Stephen wearing PPE and clips of the clapping and also Launce and Crab the dog, from Two Gentlemen of Verona, performed by Imogen Halsey. Imogen's piece was filmed in a shed, as her character was self-isolating with a cough for 14 days.

The digital theatre series, which reimagines William Shakespeare’s work to a modern-day setting, will continue running into July and has a large technical team behind it, as well as the actors and directors, though everything has been carried out either individually or with social distancing.

Aaron said: "The response to Bard From The Barn has been so incredible that we’ve decided we’re not going to stop there. With our second series Bard From The Barn has become a global creative process with actors joining us from as far as Australia, to work with 35 Third Year Drama School students.”

One of the Bard in the Barn scenes directed by Rob Forknall(35259980)
One of the Bard in the Barn scenes directed by Rob Forknall(35259980)

Rob added: "Everything has to be focussed on lockdown and the issues people have been facing, and it has been a challenge, and fun. Sometimes it works with my ideas, and sometimes it's the actor's ideas. I really liked the clapping, I think that worked well, as besides its meaning during lockdown, it is also something you'd do at the end of a show."

In the first phase, performers were paired with a director, while the second phase will be new creatives where an actor is paired with a third year student and director to interpret Shakespeare’s duologues to lockdown.

The theatre’s artistic director Iwan Lewis said: "This latest series is the epitome of what the Barn Theatre stands for - to bring theatre to new audiences in a fresh, exciting and innovative way. I’m particularly pleased that we are able to create an opportunity for emerging drama school graduates to work with the UK’s leading directors and performers. I hope this will provide them their first step into the industry after their courses and showcases have been cut short due to Covid-19.”

The series is to raise money for the Barn Theatre, which is an unsubsidised theatre in Cirencester that had celebrated its second birthday before lockdown hit and is shown on Instagram and YouTube.

Monologues are released every weekday at 5pm and there's a weekly round-up episode on a Friday at 9pm with the week’s episodes. Donations go to the Save Our Barn campaign. To donate click here.

When will the show go on for theatres across Kent?

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