New take on Shakespearean comedy

THE topsy-turvy world of Twelfth Night – where fools are wise and wise men are fools – has taken over Thornbridge Hall.

Cotton Grass Theatre, the Peak District’s own professional touring theatre company, is opening a new production of Shakespeare’s comedy in the atmospheric surroundings of the hall at Ashford-in-the-Water to launch the Bakewell Arts Festival.

The Shakespearean comedy of disguises and deceptions, mistaken identity, the folly of ambition and all the many guises and games of love takes a journey through madness, laughter and tears to a happy ending – for almost everyone.

Cotton Grass’s Artistic Director Sue Daniel said: “We are so pleased to be working in partnership with Thornbridge Hall again. We want this to be a big, bumper, summer fun production with live music and sunny weather – so we are looking for a good summer this year. We hope to be playing in the open air of course and we hope people will be able to come and have an evening drink and enjoy the gardens, which are one of Derbyshire’s best-kept secrets. But if the weather’s bad we can move inside; our audiences will not get wet.”

It follows an appearance at Thornbridge Hall last October by Cotton Grass Theatre with their production of Haunted.

Twelfth Night will be directed by Sue McCormick, an actress, writer and director who has worked with Northern Broadsides, Hull Truck and the Manchester Royal Exchange. Her own play, Unruly Women, toured in 2007 and she continues to perform her own one-woman play, Wild as the White Waves. Her television work includes Hollyoaks, Holby City, Casualty and Emmerdale.

Her experience of Shakespeare includes directing Richard III, Hamlet and The Merchant of Venice for Demi-Paradise Productions at Lancaster Castle.

David Frederickson plays Malvolio, Sheffield-based actors Roger Bingham and David Westbrook (also musical director) are Sir Toby Belch and Sir Andrew Aguecheek and Victoria Brazier is Viola. Also in the cast are Gareth Cassidy as Sebastian, Clare Disley (Olivia), Lewis Marsh (Orsino), Susan Daniel (Maria) and Howard Chadwick (Feste/ Antonio).

Twelfth Night will run for 12 performances from Thursday, July 28 until Saturday, August 6 with matinees performances next Thursday and on both Saturdays.

Tickets are available from the Derby Live box office (01332 255800) and online at

With Thornbridge beer on tap, Sir Toby Belch need have no fear of a lack of “cakes and ale”.

lThere’s more open-air theatre during August with visits to the Botanical Gardens by Heartbreak Productions with an adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice from Thursday, August 4 to Sunday next week followed by Pinocchio from August 11-14.

On tour from London’s South Bank, Shakespeare’s Globe pays its second visit of the summer to the Pavilion Gardens in Buxton with Hamlet on Thursday, August 4 and Friday at 6pm. Chapterhouse Theatre Company are at Renishaw Hall on Sunday, August 21 with a production of another Jane Austen novel, Sense and Sensibility.