Roll up, roll up for the Calderstones Summer Fair!

The final days of summer are just around the corner, but at The Reader Organisation we might just have saved the best till last with what’s happening at the Mansion House at Calderstones

King Lear 1Last week the Garden Theatre reopened in the grandest style imaginable with two nights of King Lear at Calderstones. Shakespeare’s Globe brought their first small-scale touring production of the play to the Mansion House, with both performances a complete sell-out. Underneath the stars and in the beautiful outdoor surroundings, timeless Shakespearean drama played out to a captivated audience. The cast, including stage and screen actors Joseph Marcell as King Lear and Rawiri Paratene as Gloucester, gave five-star performances from – and at times, down from – a custom-built stage, making for two very special shows that brought the Garden Theatre back to life after 30 years.

The responses from the audiences on Twitter confirmed what many people expressed as a wish at our Mansion House Public Open Days back in April – to see theatre put back at the heart of the park and community:

#Lear is exactly as touring shakespeare should be. Snappy, high energy and inventive

Wow! Now THAT is life! Brought a friend who had never seen/read any Shakespeare and she loved it. Thank you 🙂

Loved #Lear by @The_Globe last night @CaldiesMansion. Hope @The_Globe come back soon

The play also received a 5* review from Sean Bradbury in the Liverpool Post:

This production of King Lear has set the bar high for the new era of theatre in Calderstones Park but one thing is for sure – it is going to be a real treat sitting under the stars to see if anything can match it.

However, Lear has only got us into gear for a load more activity and excitement at the Mansion House…

Calderstones Summer FairThere’s a very special treat in store next week as The Reader Organisation prepares to hold its first Summer Fair at Calderstones on Saturday 31st August, 11am-5pm. It’ll be a day for the family and whole community to enjoy with lots of wonderful attractions, including:

  •  games
  • crafts and plant stalls
  • face painting
  • possibly the world’s first poetry photo booth with custom recitals
  • live music
  • a Harry Potter fancy dress competition for children
  • Wishing Tree and Memory Wall to share your thoughts about the Mansion House

…and there will be tons more in store on the day; you’ll have to join us to find out exactly what…

Even if the sun isn’t shining outside, it still promises to be a summer spectacular at the Mansion House. Roll up, roll up – and join the Reading Revolution! Head to the Calderstones section of our website to find out more about the Summer Fair, as well as the summer programme of activities at the Mansion House, or call for more information on 0151 724 5000

Lear at the Mansion House: Tonight’s the Night!

The decks have arrived at the Garden Theatre
The decks have arrived at the Garden Theatre

The day has arrived – tonight we’ll be bringing Shakespeare’s Globe’s production of King Lear to Calderstones. With only hours to go, the Mansion House and the Garden Theatre – which will be unveiled for the first time in 30 years for the show – is already a hive of activity, with the stage making its way in and being assembled as we speak.

The whole of Liverpool is excited by the prospect of Shakespearian drama happening in the heart of the city, so it’s no surprise that the performances of Lear are completely SOLD OUT. There won’t be any extra tickets available on the door of the Mansion House tonight or tomorrow, so if you didn’t get one please don’t come along as we wouldn’t want to leave anyone disappointed.

Performances begin at 7.30pm and are due to finish at around 10.30pm. There is very limited parking at the Mansion House so all attendees are advised to use public transport wherever possible for the journey to and from the show. If you do need to drive, please use public parking facilities (there are two small public car parks off Calderstones Road and Yewtree Road).

Don’t forget to bring folding chairs, blankets and cushions to sit on and refreshments can be brought along (but alcohol is not permitted). We weren’t too pleased that the rain clouds gathered this morning, but fingers crossed for them to lift…just in case, don’t get caught out – dress appropriately for the outdoors, in warm and waterproof clothing.

king learIn the remaining hours, there’s just enough time to whet your appetite further. If you haven’t got a copy of Lear to hand don’t fret as we’ve got some interviews with the cast on our Facebook page to keep you excited – you can see Bethan Cullinane (Cordelia/Lear’s Fool) chatting about her favourite scene, Ruth Everett (Goneril/Curan) telling us what it’s like to perform out of doors and King Lear himself, Joseph Marcell, attempting to sum up the play in just one sentence – it’s a tricky job… Joseph also spoke to the Liverpool Echo last week about the prospect of performing at the Garden Theatre and in Liverpool after being away for over 30 years.

If you didn’t manage to get your tickets for Lear, don’t be disappointed as you can still enjoy lots of great activities at Calderstones over the summer. Listen to Reader Places Manager Sophie Povey and Creative Coordinator Roisin Hyland talking to Sean Styles on BBC Radio Merseyside (around 1 hour and 30 mins in) about everything that’s coming up at the Mansion House, including our Summer Fair on Saturday 31st August.

Stay tuned to Twitter for all the info coming from #Lear at the Mansion House – follow us on @thereaderorg and @CaldiesMansion.

There’s nothing left to say except enjoy the show – and we’ll see you there!

Lear is nearly here at Calderstones Mansion House

Shakespeare's Globe cast of King Lear (c. Ellie Kurttz)
Shakespeare’s Globe cast of King Lear (c. Ellie Kurttz)

There’s less than a week until the Garden Theatre at Calderstones Mansion House is opened for the first time in over 30 years and the stage will be set for Shakespeare’s Globe’s touring production of King Lear. Anticipation is certainly running high and tickets are in demand – find out more about how you can get your hands on some here.

Since April, Lear has played to eager audiences around the country with its eight strong cast, visiting Margate, Bristol, Brighton, Dumfries, Essex, Cambridge and Penrith, and has been further afield to Turkey, Germany, St Lucia and Denmark – a truly worldwide phenomenon! The production has gone from stately homes and castles, to university campuses and festivals over the last few months, and the Garden Theatre at Calderstones will provide a truly beautiful backdrop to the timeless drama of Shakespeare. One of the cast members, Shanaya Rafaat (playing Regan) says that she relishes the ‘challenge’ of performing outdoors:

‘[…] you’re forced to find a new performance vocabulary and a more encompassing technique. Also being outdoors feeds so much into the landscape of the play and that, along with creating all the music and sound effects ourselves, brings you so much closer to how it was originally performed and experienced. One of my favourite bits is standing behind the thundersheet, gently rattling away under the action at the end of part one, and I look up and all I can see is sky.’

We’re hoping that the summer sun will stay shining for Lear at Calderstones, but even if it arrives the rain won’t dampen our spirits. In case of bad weather, audience members are advised to bring raincoats/waterproof clothing and please bring along blankets and cushions so that your seat is comfortable. As there is very limited parking space at the Mansion House, please use public transport where possible – this will prove easier to your journey. Driving to the Mansion House is only advised where absolutely necessary, and please use public car parking if you are doing so. Audience members are welcome to bring their own refreshments for the performance but please note that alcohol will not be permitted.

If you’ve already got your tickets, we know how excited you are but to get you in the mood, here’s an intriguing word from the actor who will be playing the title role of King Lear, Joseph Marcell. Do you know what ‘pother’ means?

‘Let the great gods,
That keep this dreadful pother o’er our heads,
Find out their enemies now.’ – [Lear], King Lear III.ii

Shanaya Rafaat (Regan), Joseph Marcell (Lear) and Bethan Cullinane (Cordelia/Lear's Fool)
Shanaya Rafaat (Regan), Joseph Marcell (Lear) and Bethan Cullinane (Cordelia/Lear’s Fool)

Find out on Shakespeare’s Globe’s King Lear on Tour blog, where you can hear Joseph wording it wonderfully and get a definition. There’s tons more goodies in store over there to let you get the lowdown on Lear, including insights about the performances and what it’s like to play these incredible roles from Joseph and Bethan Cullinane, who plays Cordelia and Lear’s Fool, in the Globe’s ‘Discovery Space’ on their website.

Tickets for King Lear on Tour at Calderstones Mansion House on Tuesday 13th and Wednesday 14th August cost £20/£15 concessions, and can be booked via the Shakespeare’s Globe website or by calling 020 7401 9919. A transaction fee of £2.50 will apply to online purchases. Find out more about the performances  and our other summer events at Calderstones on The Reader Organisation’s website.

King Lear – “Shakespeare’s Greatest Tragedy”

As you know, Calderstones Mansion will soon be opening its Garden Theatre for the first time in 30 years, to none other than Shakespeare’s Globe‘s touring production of King Lear! Everyone at TRO is getting jittery with excitement, and already a huge portion of tickets have been sold. So get yours quick!

We thought we’d whet your appetite just that bit further by showing you this trailer…


For those of you who aren’t familiar, the play is the story of old King Lear, who proposes to give up his crown and divide his kingdom between his three daughters. However, his rash generosity is cruelly repaid when he is caught in a web of lies and deceit by those closest to him, and he discovers all too late the falsity of values by which he has lived. Eventually plunged into despair and madness, King Lear is described by The Globe to be ‘a profound exploration of the human condition in all its extremes and complexity’.

I am a man more sinned against than sinning.

– Lear

Joseph Marcell, who plays King Lear, calls it “just magical”. Executive Producer Tom Bird calls it “one of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies”. So, what exactly is it that makes King Lear so popular?

According to scholarly research, Shakespeare authored King Lear around 1605, between Othello and Macbeth, and three years after its highly-ranked competitor, Hamlet. Despite being set in a time far removed from its creation, its plot line reflects anxieties that would have been close to home for Shakespeare’s audiences around this time.

Thou shouldst not have been old before thou hadst been wise.

– The Fool

Performance History expert Rebecca Brown believes that Shakespeare drew his inspiration for King Lear from a mixture of myth, legend and history (read more). Strangely enough (though perhaps not so strangely…) Shakespeare’s version is the only one to end unhappily.

Two real-life cases that are believed to have had some influence on Shakespeare’s writing of the play include a lawsuit, in which the eldest of three sisters tried to have her elderly father declared insane so she could take control of his property. There is also the case of Mayor of London William Allen, who was treated very poorly by his three daughters after dividing his wealth among them.

Men must endure their going hence even as their coming hither.

– Edgar, as Poor Tom

Another keen theory is that Shakespeare was trying to expose the fragility of Elizabethan society in England, which demanded that absolute deference and respect be paid to not just the wealthy and powerful, but to parents and the elderly. The suffering of Lear and Gloucester at the hands of their own children demonstrates how vulnerable parents can actually be. So be good to your folks, kids!

Tickets for King Lear at Calderstones can be bought via The Globe Box Office website or by calling 020 7401 9919. Find out more here.

Shakespeare’s Globe Presents King Lear on Tour at Calderstones Mansion House

GT_OT_Logo_Grass_RGB_72King Lear – Shakespeare’s Globe on Tour
Calderstones Mansion House Garden, Calderstones Park, Liverpool L18 3JD ‎
7.30pm, Tuesday 13th and Wednesday 14th August

We are delighted to announce that the Garden Theatre at Calderstones Mansion House will be re-opened for the first time in over 30 years by the world renowned Shakespeare’s Globe award-winning small-scale touring production. They are bringing King Lear, Shakespeare’s ultimate tragedy, to The Garden Theatre at Calderstones Mansion House on Tuesday 13th and Wednesday 14th August 2013, as part of its summer tour across the UK and Europe.

Old King Lear, weary of royal duties, proposes to break up his kingdom and divide it among his three daughters. But this rash generosity is cruelly repaid and Lear discovers too late the false values by which he has lived and, in turn, the suffering common to all humanity. Its tempestuous poetry shot through with touches of humour and moments of heartrending simplicity render King Lear as one of the deepest artistic explorations of the human condition.

“No man will ever write a better tragedy than Lear” – George Bernard Shaw

king lear
King Lear (c. Ellie Kurttz)

The first time the play has been produced for a small scale tour, the eight strong cast features Joseph Marcell as Lear, best known as Geoffrey in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and last at the Globe in Much Ado About Nothing, and screen actor Rawiri Paratene, star of the Whale Rider, as Gloucester. The production is directed by Bill Bucklehurst, well known at Shakespeare’s Globe where he has directed Hamlet with Dominic Dromgoole and played Antipholus in The Comedy of Errors.

Globe Theatre On Tour, Shakespeare’s Globe is a faithful reconstruction of the open-air playhouse for which he wrote many of his greatest plays, situated on Bankside, London. For the last five years Globe Theatre On Tour have taken productions to castles, festivals, parks and town squares. Previous productions have included Henry V, Anne Boleyn, As You Like It and Hamlet (2012), and this production of King Lear will feature an Elizabethan style booth stage, inspired by paintings and etchings from Shakespeare’s time.

‘The Globe does something else to a play: it makes it a communal, shared experience and when a show fires up as this does, there’s nowhere better to be.’ –  Sunday Express

The touring production of King Lear is an astounding addition to our schedule of summer events at Calderstones Mansion House and is the first of many performances we hope to host at the Garden Theatre.

Tickets for the performances cost £20/£15 concessions (Get Into Reading group members/staff/senior citizens/students/unemployed) and can be booked via the Shakespeare’s Globe website or by phoning the Globe Box Office on 020 7401 9919. There is a transaction fee of £2.50 for online purchases.

Audience members are advised to bring blankets to use during the performance, and to use public transport where possible as there is very limited space in the public car park. Feel free to bring your own refreshments, but please leave alcohol at home.

Join in the conversation on Twitter by using the hashtag #Lear