As celebrations continue for the award-winning Guildford Shakespeare Company’s (GSC) 10th Anniversary, 5th July marks the day when their first production took to the stage.
A balmy summer evening on 5 July 2006 saw GSC speak their first lines of Shakespeare to a sold out audience in Guildford’s Castle Gardens. 10 years and 68,000 audience members later, the company are today in the rehearsal room working on their 30th production, and those lines happen to be the same: Much Ado About Nothing.
“We really can’t believe it was 10 years ago that GSC welcomed its first audiences” says Co-Founder Matt Pinches.
“Back then Sarah (Gobran, GSC’s other Co-Founder) and I were just jobbing actors, so when she suggested we put a play in the Castle Gardens, we really had no idea that 10 years later we would be staging our 30th show! This decade has been an incredible experience, and it has been such a privilege to work with so many talented artists and give so many people a new experience of Shakespeare and theatre.”
GSC’s first show, Much Ado About Nothing, was staged over 10 nights, and cost just £7000, (this year’s summer season has a budget of around £126,000). “We’ve come a long way since 2006, and although we now produce throughout the year, and have an fast-growing education department, the summer season has a special place in our hearts as it was here that the ethos of the company began”, Matt explains. “We wanted to re-ignite people’s passion for live theatre and these great stories. Using non-theatre venues, we have been able to reconnect audiences with the community in which they live, thereby making the act of theatre going a completely new and local experience.”
In August a special exhibition entitled Muse of Fire, at Guildford House Gallery, will open charting the company’s evolution over the last 10 years and will include costumes, props, posters and photographs.
Earlier this year the actor Brian Blessed, recently awarded an OBE, was announced as the theatre company’s honorary patron, following his time with GSC in King Lear in 2015. “In such an important year there was no question about which play should be our 30th – it is proving a real treat to return to Much Ado. This time we have chosen to set it in the victorious summer of 1945, with fabulous period costumes and a toe-tapping soundtrack to match. This time we’re staging it in the grounds of the University of Law on Portsmouth Road. Serendipitously it opens on 15 July – the same date as our first Much Ado ended in 2006!”
Over the last ten years the company has grown into a year-round producing theatre company who last year created 87 jobs for artists and engaged with over 2300 people, young and old, with education classes. GSC receives no core subsidy and last year achieved a 79% sell-out rate across its 140 performances. It has also commissioned 4 new adaptations in the last 18 months.
Tickets for Much Ado About Nothing are on sale now.
Hayley Doherty Margaret
Sarah Gobran Beatrice
Tim Hudson Borrachio
Fiz Marcus Leonata
Simon Nock Don Pedro
Tom Littler Director
Neil Irish Designer
Anett Black Associate Designer
Dates and Times
Friday 15th – Saturday 30th July (Excl. Sundays) – Eves 7.30pm; Sat Mats 2.30pm – Press Night Monday 18 July
University of Law Grounds
Portsmouth Road, Guildford, GU3 1HA
Free parking onsite