Glamis Castle visitors can expected to be wooed this summer, thanks to the aptly-named Three Inch Fools.
The travelling Shakespearean theatre company, named after the Bard’s expression for “an admirable person”, brought their Romeo and Juliet production to Glamis Castle this week for a night of passion, poison – and audience participation!
And if you missed them, fear not – it’s been a long lockdown, and they’re coming back around, with their rendition of Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor and a new non-Shakespearean run of Robin Hood.
“This is my first time in Glamis, and it’s the first time I’ve really got to explore Scotland so far,” said company member William Shackleton. “It’s absolutely beautiful.
“It’s been such a lovely opportunity to perform in such gorgeous settings.”
Indeed, the grand castle and sweeping gardens on a (mid)summer’s night provided the perfect backdrop to watch one of Shakespeare’s most renowned tragedies unfold.
“We’re excited to be hosting a series of open-air performances from the Three Inch Fools this summer,” said Helen Buchanan, general manager of Glamis Castle.
“We look forward to welcoming visitors to enjoy their musical take on popular Shakespeare plays while also experiencing the dramatic setting of Glamis Castle and Gardens.”
And the Fools’ simple wooden stage, with two smaller platforms all joined with minimalist string lights, contrasted delightfully with the grandeur of the surroundings.
Shaking up Shakespeare
With the (socially-distanced) audience hunkered down on picnic blankets and in camping chairs dotted around the stage, the atmosphere was festive. And the Tipsy Duck catering van helped ensure spirits remained high throughout the evening!
But of course, the main event was the play itself, and the Three Inch Fools did not disappoint.
The troupe provided a spectacle that kept the spirit of Shakespeare firmly at its heart, but brought a vitality and energy that cast off any preconceived notions of stuffiness around the Bard.
“In a way,” actor Hazel Monaghan explained, “what we’re doing is very traditional. In that we’re a touring group of travelling players, who add music to the plays, and fun, and take it into different communities.
“So in that sense, it’s very traditional. But it’s also very much not.”
“Yes!” jumps in Edward Kaye, with an excitement that comes through on stage. “I’d say what makes it non-traditional is both the multi-roling. It’s five of us playing at least three characters each.
“Also, the company’s love of audience participation or kind of ad-libbing with the audience.” (A particularly charming moment was had when Romeo picked out a young woman in the front row as the subject of his first love, Rosaline.)
“And also,” Kaye added, “The music! All of us play music, and there’s loads of music in both shows.”
He’s not exaggerating. A capella harmonies (think Glee, but better) transition the players from scene to scene.
And the actors play guitar, violin, accordion and percussion live on stage to accompany the famous monologues – and add comic-book-like sound effects to the energetic battle scenes!
The multi-roling is choreographed seamlessly, with simple white costumes augmented by coloured scarves (to signal rival Montagues and Capulets), jackets (for Romeo and Juliet) and literal different hats for the hilarious supporting characters of Juliet’s Nurse (Kaye), Lady Capulet and Friar Laurence (both Dominic Blackwood).
And the lead couple are played with unflinching sincerity by Monaghan (Romeo) and Isabella Hayward (Juliet), in a refreshingly modern inversion of the “men playing women” trope.
Even with the liveliness of the production, the tragedy of the star-crossed “lovers of fair Verona” still brought a tear to the eye.
It’s well worth bringing a picnic and a blanket, and seeing for yourself.
To catch the Fools at Glamis Castle, or for information on their “Riotous Summer of Theatre” productions across the UK, visit their website.