The great outdoors

FOR the first time the Peace Gardens will be the setting for open-air theatre when GB Theatre Company bring two Shakespearean productions to town this weekend.

There will be performances of Romeo and Juliet tonight and Saturday with Twelfth Night played out on Friday.

There’s a well-known face in the role of Romeo, Gabriel Thomson, from BBC sitcom My Family. He played Michael, youngest of the Harper siblings in the show starring Robert Lindsay and Zoe Wanamaker, all the way through to the final series which has just ended.

“I’m the only one who stuck it out for the whole thing,” says the now 24-year-old who was 13 when it started. By then he was an experienced child actor, having played Pip in the BBC’s Great Expectations, followed by movies The New Adventures of Pinocchio and Enemy at the Gates.

It is his third season of outdoor Shakespeare and on tour he doubles up as Sebastian in Twelfth Night which he sees as something of a relief after the intensity of Romeo. “For me and everyone in the sense that it’s a comedy and much lighter affair,” he says. “By the end of Romeo and Juliet I’m exhausted so it’s nice to go and do Sebastian who by the end is not killing himself but is incredibly happy. It’s a nice change.”

He appears opposite Lucy Wray, who graduated from the Oxford School of Drama last year, as Juliet and Viola. A company of 10 actors will alternate the two plays performed in traditional costumes.

“Our aim is to do it traditionally because for a lot of people it is an introduction to Shakespeare and we want to make it a bit of an event,” says GB Theatre’s Stacey Roca. “Being in the open air, we want to encapsulate how it was in Shakespeare’s era.”

GB Theatre Company is touring for the second year, mostly to stately homes and gardens, including Trinity College Dublin, Norwich Castle, Reading School and the Victoria Embankment in London. Last year they performed in the Czech Republic and Norway.

“We approached the city council in the first place about the Botanical Gardens and it was they who suggested doing it in the Peace Gardens and we are thrilled to be the first company to be doing it there,” said producer Gill Roca.

Performances start at 7pm. Tickets range from £7 to £15 with different prices for seating and picnics and are available via 2565567 or