For 2017, Merely Theatre embark on a second national tour of genderblind work with two of Shakespeare’s best-loved shows performed in rep: Romeo & Juliet and Twelfth Night.
Presented in Merely Theatre’s signature stripped-back style, the plays overflow with energy and urgency, seeking to blow the cobwebs off Shakespeare. Merely’s productions are raucous and joyous, stirring and visceral.
Merely’s commitment to gender-blind practice means actors rehearse their five-hand productions in male-female pairs, generating twice the amount of ideas for each role, while halving the rehearsal time for each individual. A man and a woman play each set of parts alternately across the venues on the tour; a male Juliet, a female Malvolio – any combination is possible.
Much has been made of the death of repertory theatre. Doing multiple shows at once, working with the same actors, learning a huge breadth of parts, immersion in the classics, and stretching an actor’s range are just some of the advantages of which theatre luminaries have mourned the loss. For some, that loss was too much to take. So, Merely Theatre started as a way for a company of actors to work together discovering the best way to put on Shakespeare’s plays. Rep is not dead, it has evolved.
Cast member Hannah Ellis says: “I am SO excited to get back on the road with Merely Theatre! Last year’s tour was brilliant and the response we had as a company was so encouraging. Everyone has been working their socks off in rehearsals to make sure that our new shows go down equally well!
The Theatre Royal Wakefield and Down Patrick Arts Centre in Northern Ireland have invited us back again this year, which is especially lovely for a relatively new company to know that we’ve had a positive impact on those theatres and their audiences.”
Artistic Director Scott Ellis comments, “We’ve done our best to recreate that same atmosphere and attitude from the old rep system. The discipline and the technique, the focus. The commitment to making every time we’ve done it the best time we’ve done it. We put in the work, we sweat it hard, and out of that pressure cooker come some extraordinary things. It’s an exhilarating way to work. We are doing raw, pure Shakespeare, the kind people get swept up in and excited by.”
Supported by The Production Exchange and public funding by Arts Council England. The ethics behind Merely Theatre are inspiring for forward-thinking theatre-makers (A Younger Theatre).
Romeo & Juliet and Twelfth Night
Running time 115 minutes (including interval)
Artistic Director Scott Ellis
Associate Director Tatty Hennessey
Set/Costume Designer Florence Hazard
Lighting Designer Christopher Nairne
Producer Emmy Rose
Content Producer Robert Myles
Cast: Ffion Jones, Robert Myles, Sarah Peachey, Luke Barton, Tamara Astor, Stephen Leask, Emmy Rose, Simon Grujich
Hannah Ellis and David Gerits