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Maidstone-based Changeling Theatre to kick off summer tour at Boughton Monchelsea Place

By Angela Cole

This weekend, the Maidstone-based Changeling Theatre will begin heading out to parks, castles, beaches and gardens across the county.

For this year’s summer tour, they will be returning with two shows - The Winter’s Tale and Nell Gwynn.

And in keeping with their usual wacky antics, there’ll be some beautiful costumes and some ABBA tunes to get audiences going.

The Changeling Theatre's tour includes Nell Gwynn this summer. Pictured: Scott Ellis as Charles II Picture: Nicholas Dawkes
The Changeling Theatre's tour includes Nell Gwynn this summer. Pictured: Scott Ellis as Charles II Picture: Nicholas Dawkes

The Winter’s Tale is a fairy story set in Sicily and Bohemia. Leontes has everything a man could want, wealth, power, a family that loves him and friends. But he is not at peace. Inside he harbours a bitter jealousy that drives him to destroy all he holds dear. Many years later, in a distant country, a journey begins that may heal his pain and reunite his family.

The second show is a musical comedy from the Globe. Nell Gwynn is set in London, 1660. King Charles II has exploded onto the scene with the love of all things loud, extravagant and sexy. And at Drury Lane a young Nell Gwynn is causing stirrings among the theatre goers. The play charts the rise of an unlikely heroine, from her roots in Coal Yard Alley, to her success as Britain’s most celebrated actress. and her hard won place in the heart of the King. But at a time when women are second class citizens, can her charm and spirit protect her from the dangers of the court?

The Changeling Theatre are off on their summer tour Pictured: Rhianna McGreevy (Nell Gwynn) under a portrait of Nell Gwynn Picture: Nicholas Dawkes
The Changeling Theatre are off on their summer tour Pictured: Rhianna McGreevy (Nell Gwynn) under a portrait of Nell Gwynn Picture: Nicholas Dawkes

Creative director Rob Forknall said: “It is the first time we have performed a play in the open air by a living, female playwright. We are very excited.

“I saw this show at the Globe and thought it perfect for our audiences - sexy and funny. The Winter’s Tale was a surprise for me as a summer play, but the audiences love its beautiful verse and fairytale feel.”

The Changeling Theatre are off on tour
The Changeling Theatre are off on tour

The show also gives theatre fans a chance to see behind the walls of a private castle. The company will stage two shows at Allington Castle in Maidstone in aid of the Heart of Kent Hospice in Aylesford, with each having just 100 tickets. The performances at the castle, which is privately owned and not usually open to the public, will both be on Saturday, July 27. They come with a glass of bubbly or soft drink.

The company recruits an apprentice each year to join them on the road, but this year opted to take on two for the first time.

The Changeling Theatre cast acting up
The Changeling Theatre cast acting up

After auditioning hopefuls, managers picked 18-year-old Layomi Coker from Gravesend and 18-year-old Chelsea Dutton from Dagenham to join them on tour. The apprentice scheme, which is supported by Arts Council England, gives acting hopefuls the chance to experience live theatre and working with a professional cast and crew. Artistic director Rob Forknall said: “We were blown away by the talent from Kent this year. We saw some really strong performers at the Hazlitt Theatre, but Layomi and Chelsea were just so good that we had to appoint both of them. This opportunity will give them a step up the acting ladder and open doors to new roles and opportunities in their careers.”

The Changeling Theatre are off on tour with Nell Gwynn
The Changeling Theatre are off on tour with Nell Gwynn

Previous apprentices have gone on to big things, including starring in Game of Thrones and the West End’s Everyone’s Talking About Jamie. Cary Ryan from Maidstone, who was an A-level drama student at Simon Langton Grammar School when he played Hamlet two years ago, is now studying Drama at Plymouth University.

DETAILS

The Changeling Theatre’s tour runs from Friday, June 28 to Sunday, August 18. To book tickets go to changeling-theatre.com

Tickets for the Allington Castle show are also available at hokh.org/events

Read more: All the latest stage news across Kent

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