It seems like every other day there is something new on Netflix. A new movie thats finally come out or a second season of a tv series that I’ve been dying to watch. Every night, after a long day of researching my PhD, answering emails and *attempting* to write, I somehow end up faced with the temptation to pop down in front of the TV and just veg out, all whilst the sun brightly shines outside on a Summer’s night. Most nights, this introverted girl struggles to want to leave the house after her brain has turned off for the day.
But there are specific nights that not even the most newest of new period mini series from Jane Austen, complete with colorful ballgowns and pensive stares from across the room, could keep me inside for the night. One such night, is my favorite in all the days of Summer, and that is the evening I get to spend with Shakespeare in a Castle.
I won’t lie, I’m far from the doe-eyed anglophile I once was when I first moved to the UK five years ago. There are a lot of things that are nothing like the films you see or the books you read, and after living anywhere for a certain amount of time, there are some ways of life, that just aren’t new and exciting anymore. One of the things that will never get old for me however, is the times I get to spend in small town in North Wales, and the beauty they have to offer. I could live here all my life and never get used to walking by a massive castle to buy an ice-cream cone in Caernarfon. I always have to stop for a moment and take in the scenery. I swear it somehow makes the ice-cream 10x sweeter…
What's better than Shakespeare in the park? How about Shakespeare in the Castle...
If you want a night that makes you feel like you’ve stepped back in time for a few hours, attend an open air play put on by the Lord Chamberlain’s men during the cheerful British summer. Every summer, this traveling company of actors travel around the UK and perform a different play by William Shakespeare in a temporary, open-air theater with a relaxed atmosphere with an audience on blankets and lawn chairs.
With the acoustics of flutes bouncing off the mighty walls of a medieval fortresses and the jovial voices of the actors singing a 16th century tune, I can’t think of a better way to have a well earned rest from the internet than getting back to the basics with a Shakespeare play in the summer. Every year I feel like I’m in one of those cute, small town British procedurals like Miss Marple or Rosemary and Thyme where the whole town is putting on a play….minus the murder part, of course. Nothing makes this period drama lover more happy than being able to see an open-air Shakespeare play in traditional costumes inside none other than a freaking British castle!
My fiancé and I grab a few blankets, a sandwich and some sweets, turn off our phones for a couple of hours and emmerse ourselves in the art of Shakespeare’s storytelling. If this sounds right down your alley too, read on for some tips and info into seeing the Lord Chamberlain’s Men preform live.
Things to bring and useful info about the plays...
If you are lucky enough to get to experience the Lord Chamberlain’s Men while they are on tour in the UK for the summer, there are a few essentials that will make your night in the Castle far more comfortable. While it’s so great everything is laid back and informal for these events, it can get uncomfortable sitting on the grass for several hours! Some people will have blankets to sit on, but most will have camping chairs that sit high above people on blankets, and could block people’s views. It’s best to bring lawn chairs yourself so its easier to see everything, and have a blanket on hand if things get chilly!
Most people bring there own food and drink and eat before the event begins. The actors are not miked for these performances and take great pains in projecting clear enough for the whole audience to hear. Don’t be that person who has arrived late and is opening loud food from your bag in the middle of the play, arrive early to be able to set up everything. Along those same lines…every year these plays get more popular, so make sure and get there early to get the best seat as things are first come, first serve!
About the Lord Chamberlain’s Men
Originally formed in the 16th century, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men were revived in 2004 and now tour across the UK every summer performing different Shakespeare plays. Acted out by an all-male cast, the contemporary Lord Chamberlain’s Men try to emulate the type of theater setting as it would have been in Shakespeare’s time, with no added visual effects, sound equipment and minimal lighting.
Back in the day, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men were one of the principal performing companies in London. Though the group were mainly known for their performances around the city, they did pack their stage up and tour when plague would threaten the theaters. For more history of the LCM, click here.
Today, the resurrected company is around half a dozen men, give or take the current production, who switch between a multitude of characters in colorful costumes befitting the Elizabethan era. Their website details all the different castles and outdoor venues that the LCM perform at during the summer. You can view their schedule and purchase tickets online at: http://www.tlcm.co.uk
(P.S. I found their programme book most helpful to buy before the performance. Not only does it give info on the actors and their roles, its a great way to read the detailed synopsis and follow along if you’re attending a Shakespeare play you are unfamiliar with.)
A brief History of Caernarfon if you’ve never been...
This year’s performance was The Tempest. I attended the play in my nearby town of Caernarfon in North Wales, in one of the most impressive fortress in Europe. Caernarfon Castle was originally built up by King Edward I of England in the 1200’s. The most formidable version of his many castles, Caernarfon became a symbol of a conquered Wales to the English when Edward killed the last Prince of Wales, Llywelyn ap Gruffud. Still, local Welsh fought back for their homeland, and the castle was attacked several times to combat English rule. Inside Caernarfon Castle is a great 8 minute audio visual presentation that explains the history of the Castle and its unique Welsh narrative, as well as a life size chess board exhibit called the “Games of Crowns” which explains the many rulers of Wales from 1066 to 1282. Also inside, is an impressive carousel exhibit that walks through the stages of Eleanor of Castile’s life as Edward I’s wife. Caernarfon Castle is now owned and operated by Cadw, the historic environment service of the Welsh Government. To purchase tickets to Caernarfon or learn about their events, visit their website here.
The Castle also holds a free museum, the Museum of the Royal Welch Fusiliers that has an extensive collection of artifacts of the oldest Welsh infantry regiment. Going through famous wars such as the American Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars, and both World Wars, the Royal Welch Fusiliers have a longstanding history of service to the United Kingdom. For more history on the museum, visit: http://www.rwfmuseum.org.uk
One of the most notable things the Castle is known for, is being the location that Prince Charles was crowned Prince of Wales in 1969. There is lovely footage of the Prince and Queen walking out unto a balcony of the castle, addressing the crowd below as they eagerly waved the Welsh flag.
Now, Caernarfon is a great place to learn about the history of North Wales, have a fabulous bite to eat at somewhere like the Black Boy Inn, and have a great scoop of ice-cream at Scoops. One of the most Welsh-speaking towns in all of Wales, the pride of Welsh culture is strong in Caernarfon, as all the shops are bilingual and filled with handcrafted Welsh items and artisan food from the local area.
Caernarfon is a great location for a day trip, and is easily accessible by car or bus from the surrounding North Wales area! To find out more about other castles you could visit in North Wales, read my blog post, 5 Castles in North Wales You Shouldn't Miss.
I'm not really that into telling you cute little anecdotes about drinking far too much coffee and loving fall. So I'm Kayla, and I wrote this blog.
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