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Parting is such sweet sorrow: Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre’s summer season draws to a close

The opening stage set for The magical Wind in the Willows Photo: Angela Ferguson

The opening stage set for the magical Wind in the Willows Photo: Angela Ferguson

“Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow,
That I shall say good night till it be morrow.”
William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre?

Well, GPOAT is surely worthy of a sonnet or two penned by the Bard himself, given how it has entertained and enchanted some 25,000 people over the past few months. Come rain or shine, the talented cast have embraced our theatre in the round in one of Chester’s green lungs and made Shakespeare’s classics and an adaptation of The Wind in the Willows their own.

In the process, they have taken legions of fans on an action-packed and emotional journey through fair Verona, into 1970s Windsor and then on into the magical woods with Toad, Mole, Ratty and pals. The cast have braved all conditions to share their contagious enthusiasm for the epic stories they tell to all concerned.

Music and merriment

On the way there is music, merriment, tears and laughter, alongside true love, tragedy and even, sometimes, the triumph of good over evil.

So we’d like to compare the open air theatre not to a summer’s day on this occasion, but to the start of a very special friendship – one that we hope will endure well into the future. With this in mind, here’s a little open letter of appreciation penned to the good folk at Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre from We Are Chester:

To the hugely talented team behind Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre

From the very first evening we took our seats in the enchanting theatre in the round in Grosvenor Park you captured our hearts and minds and we did not want the performance to end.

We were lucky enough to enjoy the premiere of Chester Performs artistic director Alex Clifton’s Romeo and Juliet, when all involved must have had some first night nerves – well, if they did, it certainly didn’t show. We were also fortunate enough to see all three productions and we were gripped, captivated and moved to laughter and tears in equal measure from the word go.

It was clear that a lot of blood, sweat and tears had gone into staging these productions. Night after night and day after day the cast ably demonstrated their versatility, turning their hand not only to powerful pieces of acting but also to singing in what at times was haunting harmony and also playing a variety of musical instruments.

And we, the audience, felt included in the production at all times, with the actors often breaking the fourth wall to address the audience or run along some of the rows amongst those enjoying their al fresco picnics and glasses of chilled prosecco.

We Are Chester's bubbly Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre selfie Photo: Angela Ferguson

We Are Chester’s bubbly Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre selfie Photo: Angela Ferguson

On one occasion in Romeo and Juliet, Mercutio even legged it into the VIP section to take a cheeky swig of one audience member’s can of beer. You simply cannot beat live theatre for that kind of edge-of-your-seat suspense and excitement, never quite knowing where the performance is going next – quite literally here as the energetic cast ran up and down steps and in and out of the various doors to the theatre during the course of the shows.

The Wind in the Willows took us on an adrenalin-fuelled adventure with comic capers from Mole, Toad, Ratty and pals and outstanding performances from the cast, one of the highlights of which was the at times cartoon-like portrayal of Pool, the head of the evil ferret business empire (Graham O’Mara).

Finally, and with a heavy heart, we took our seats for the Merry Wives of Windsor, determined to savour every minute of what would be our last GPOAT production of the summer.

During the show, directed by Rebecca Gatward, we were taken by Mistresses Page (Ellie Burrow) and Ford (Louise Kempton) and ageing lothario Falstaff (Daniel Goode) on a trip back in time to the heady days of the 1970s.

It was like stepping into a scene from Abigail’s Party, with cocktail sausages on sticks, black forest gateau and pussy cat bow blouses all making an appearance, while an All Spice drenched Falstaff desperately tried to court the attentions of the Merry Wives in a bid to benefit from their great wealth.

And even a soaking from a downpour of torrential rain towards the end of the show didn’t put us or the cast off. The actors returned to the rain sodden stage to take a bow, their happy faces beaming through the globules pouring from Chester’s finest clouds while the audience rose to their feet to give a standing ovation.

It was, quite simply, sheer magic – memories are made of this.

So a hearty thank you GPOAT for whisking us away to different worlds, far, far away from our beautiful city of Chester. We all need a dose of escapism from time to time, and this was the perfect recipe – a hugely talented cast and crew, a stunning venue and a truly appreciative and warm audience lapping up every second of the performances.

We’re sad that it’s all over for another year but we can’t wait to see what you have in store for us next summer. One question: How on earth are you going to top this year’s productions?! We’re glad we’re not in your shoes on that score!

One thing is for sure, we will be there, alongside thousands of others that you have given immense pleasure to over the past few months. Thank you. And until we meet again, farewell friend – and, in the words of Shakespeare – parting is such sweet sorrow.

Yours hugely appreciatively,

The We Are Chester team

Grosvenor Park Outdoor Theatre Photo: Angela Ferguson

Grosvenor Park Outdoor Theatre Photo: Angela Ferguson

GPOAT marquee shot

Even the exterior of the open air theatre is green, matching its lush surroundings Photo: Angela Ferguson

Even the exterior of the open air theatre is green, matching its lush surroundings Photo: Angela Ferguson

About Angela Ferguson (66 Articles)
I'm a writer, journalist and blogger, as well as the founder and editor of culture webzine wearechester.co.uk. I'm also a university lecturer in journalism and media communications and a presenter at Flipside Radio.

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