Beware The Ides Of July

One of the highlights of Ely’s Amateur Dramatic calendar is the annual ADS open air Shakespeare production, performed each year in the Sue Ryder Gardens. This year’s presentation is the classic drama of power, betrayal and political intrigue, ‘Julius Caesar’.

Following on from the company’s successful productions of ‘The Taming Of The Shrew’ ‘A Comedy of Errors’, ‘Macbeth’ and ‘Twelfth Night’, ‘Julius Caesar’ is the first ADS production to be directed by Fiona Gilbert, an associate director of all of the previous open air shows. “Like all great epics, this show has been a long time in the making,” explains Fiona. “I began my preparation as soon as the curtain came down on last year’s production and hopefully, after all this work, I’ve put together an entertaining and thought provoking version of the play.”

Despite being set in Roman times and written in the Elizabethan era, it is most definitely a play for today. On its debut, Shakespeare’s drama reflected the anxieties in English society provoked by Queen Elizabeth’s refusal to name a successor. Thankfully the intrigue that has surrounded this country’s 21st Century political succession has been resolved with accession of Prime Minister Gordon Brown, but the behind the scenes machinations that have brought him to power could have fuelled their own Shakespearian tragedy. “As we were rehearsing the play, whenever we got to Caesar’s famous assassination scene, I couldn’t help but imagining a version of the play that cast some of the great political leaders of this era,” laughs Fiona.

With open-air productions, weather is always an important consideration and this year is no exception. “I’ve been keeping an eye on the long range weather forecasts for months,” smiles Fiona. “But on the whole the weather has always been very kind to us. Performing in the gardens of the old Bishop’s Palace is a pleasure and it really is a beautiful setting. People come each year and make themselves comfortable – they bring picnics and bottles of wine and they really like to take advantage of the full alfresco drama experience.”

This year’s production of ‘Julius Caesar’ takes place in the Sue Ryder Gardens, Ely, from Wednesday July 18 until Saturday July 21, at for four nights, at 7.30pm. The cast includes Steve Twigden as Caesar, Gilly Lancaster as Calpurnia, Darren Smith as Mark Antony, Jake Featherstone as Brutus, and Peter Clyne as Cassius.

Tickets are £6 and audiences. Advance tickets are available from Burrows Bookshop, Ely, tel: 01353 669759.