The Bard is back at Norwich Shakespeare Festival

The hugely popular Shakespeare Festival returns to the evocative surroundings of Norwich Cathedral Cloisters this week. SIMON PARKIN reports.

If all the world is a stage, the historic and picturesque cloisters of Norwich Cathedral couldn't be a more perfect setting for a summer's evening of outdoor theatre.

It's a location that GB Theatre Company will this week be bringing to life William Shakespeare's way with words with two outdoor productions of the comedy The Taming of the Shrew and the epic The Tempest.

It will be the fourth time the highly praised company has brought its Shakespearian productions featuring professional actors to the romantically lit cloisters.

Last summer's productions of Romeo & Juliet and Twelfth Night received excellent reviews and this year's plays will continue the company's mission to bring the Bard to a wide audience in stunning outdoor settings.

Actor Desmond Barrit, patron of the festival, and who has previously appeared in the pantomime in Norwich as well as at Sheringham's Little Theatre, has great experience with the works of Shakespeare.

He said: 'Even if some people understand none, or some, or all of Shakespeare, I still think everyone can get something out of it.

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'Something that has always stuck with me was when a young boy said to me, after he saw a Shakespeare play I was in, 'I will remember this for the rest of my life'. That really touched me and affirms that everyone should have a moment like that.'

The Taming of the Shrew is the comedy centring on a couple's relationship and the 'taming' of the headstrong Katherina.

A local Lord takes him a tinker to his house and decides to play a practical joke on him. They inform him that a group of players have arrived to perform 'The Taming of the Shrew' for him. Hortensio who seeks his fortune, the rich and elderly Gremio and the romantic Lucentio all arrive at the house of Baptista to woo his beautiful daughter Bianca.

However, Baptista insists that Bianca cannot be wed until his older daughter, the shrewish Katherine is married, but with her violent temper and reputation for shrewishness who will marry her?

The production, directed by Jenny Stephens, director of BBC Radio 4's The Archers, is being staged on Wednesday and next Friday.

The Tempest concerns the themes of love, truth and time. Prospero was usurped by his brother Antonio 12 years ago, helped by Alonso the King of Naples, and the King's brother Sebastian.

Put to sea with his baby daughter Miranda, they are shipwrecked on a distant island and by the time the play begins, Prospero has been ruling it by using his magic art.

It will be performed on Thursday and next Saturday, and has been directed by Jack Shepherd, best known for his acting role in ITV's Wycliffe.

Barrie Palmer, one of the two company directors at GB Theatre Company, which was founded in 2010, said they are delighted to be returning to Norwich.

'The atmosphere is terrific at Norwich Cathedral. It is just a magical experience, and Norwich is such a beautiful city,' he said.

Cecile Tuddenham, Norwich Cathedral marketing manager, said: 'This is the fourth year we have had the Shakespeare festival.

'It has definitely become a popular feature on the Norwich calendar.

'The cathedral is such an amazing setting for Shakespeare, especially on a fine summer evening when the cathedral spire is lit up with a lovely sunset.'

? The Taming of the Shrew will be performed at Norwich Cathedral on July 11 and 13, with The Tempest on July 12 and 14, all at 7pm, �18 (Wed-Thurs)/�20 (Fri-Sat), �14 (cons), under-5s free, 01603 218323,