SIXTY four years ago the Pendley Open Air Shakespeare Festival which begins on August 2 was simply an end of term show at an adult education centre, now it’s one of the most significant amateur festivals dedicated to the works of The Bard in the country.
Every year a new company of players with a rehearsal period of just one week stage two plays in the stunning grounds of the magnificent Pendley Manor Hotel.
Some members return year after year and some are talented drama school students who go on to have successful careers in the industry - like the much-loved actress Lynda Bellingham who remembers her time at Pendley fondly.
Shakespeare aficionados and novices alike arrive in their hordes to enjoy the evening performances alfresco.
This year the company will start the festival with The Winter’s Tale.
The festival director Helen Mumby says: “We are delighted to welcome back Nick Bayley to direct - Nick was last involved in the festival as an actor over 30 years ago!
“His production of The Winter’s Tale promises to bring out the drama, magic and fun of the story in our beautiful pastoral setting.”
Nick who is head of drama at Stowe school says: “It’s terribly exciting to be directing at Pendley this year, not to mention a huge challenge.
“The Winter’s Tale is one of my favourite Shakespeare plays - it’s his greatest play about ‘having a second chance’ and seizing that chance to become better.”
This year Freddy Aris, 11, whose debut performance was in Richard III in 2010, returns with his sister Felicity who’s 13 - both will play children in Bohemia.
Their uncle John Ellwood who died in the Bali bombings ten years ago was a previous festival director.
Fred’s best friend Edmund Wilson, 11, who also debuted at last year’s festival - playing Richard, Duke of York returns as Mamillius this year. In September he starts at Berkhamsted school with a music scholarship and a drama exhibition.
Pendley Open Air Shakespeare Festival runs from Tuesday, August 2 to Saturday, August 13, 8pm.
Call 01442 820060 for tickets or go to www.pendleyshakespearefestival.co.uk to book online.