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Outdoor Theatre at Soulton Hall
22 Apr 2021
by Katy Rink

Open Air Theatre at Soulton Hall

Soulton Hall opens its new summer season with Classic Theatre Company’s 'Relatively Speaking', Alan Ayckbourn’s witty garden comedy on May 20-23, directed by Robin Case - to book tickets visit soultonhall.co.uk

Ayckbourn's comedy 'Relatively Speaking' is largely set in a garden, so what better setting than the walled garden at Soulton in the grounds of the ancient manor house? 

The plays' director Robin Case said: "We are delighted to be the first company to return to Soulton this season - Tim's dedication to the arts and determination to enable live performances is inspiring. The Company is new but perfectly formed with seasoned actors from all over the UK and the walled garden is the perfect location for an intimate, garden comedy.

"After two lock downs, actors are longing to perform and audiences longing for live theatre: engagement, laughter – and applause. Bring on the magic!"

Soulton Hall, near Wem, demonstrated its commitment to open air theatre last summer, with socially distanced productions in 'The Sanctuary' - a specially constructed earthen amphitheatre in the grounds - including visits from National Theatre Live and 'Horrible Histories'. 

It's all part of visionary Shropshire farmer Tim Ashton's crusade to help rescue culture from the devastating impacts of the pandemic. Tim, whose family own Soulton Hall, is committed to enabling live performances at the Hall this summer. Together with his four sisters and parents, Tim has devised a rich programme of comedy, live music, drama and national youth theatre, calling upon friends and contacts to bring an astounding lineup, including big names, to the hall. The NYT is to return this summer (June 16-19) with a production of 'Animal Farm'. 

Tim said: "Really, it's an emergency response to the crisis in culture and live performance caused by the pandemic. I saw that crisis developing and thought farmers ought to show up and be part of the response. We already had the footprint here to do it - the digger was idling, so we ripped up our beans and built the theatre.

"It feels important to help actors back on their feet and also to help communities recover some kind of shared civic life safely again."

Tim admits the theatre is not 'his world' ("I once played a snowflake in the nativity and the fourth wall of Jericho!"), but is determined to do his bit to rescue culture. He says the shows will provide employment for local young people and there are plans to involve local schools and youth groups. 

"People are desperate for live music and performances now. We need shared experiences we can all say we are part of - going to the pub on a table of six isn't enough. If audiences support us, we can keep the big names here and offer experiences normally confined to the South Bank, but in a field in Shropshire!"

Classic Theatre Company, which kicks off the outdoor theatre season this May with 'Relatively Speaking', is a small group of actors, drawn from all over the country, and dedicated to the high quality performance of popular but well-respected drama. 

The play opens in Ginny and Greg’s tiny bedsit. But why are there so many flowers, and whose slippers are under the bed? Meanwhile, at their house in the country, Philip is wondering why the post arrives on Sunday, and why his wife isn’t going to church today?

Performances will run from Thursday, May 20 to Sunday, May 23, at 2pm and 6pm each day. 

Excellent bar facilities available with drinks supplied by Tanners of Shrewsbury. Please bring your own seat and picnic and be prepared for inclement weather! Tickets £20/or four for £60 from soultonhall.co.uk

Coming up later in the summer at Soulton Hall is an astonishingly high quality lineup of open air events: Treasure Island (May 29-30), The Diablos in concert, the UK's foremost country-rock band (June 12), National Youth Theatre's Animal Farm (June 16-19), Horrible Histories Live on Stage (June 20), Shakespeare's Twelfth Night (June 26), The Hound of the Baskervilles by British Touring Shakespeare (June 27), comedy with TV and stage comic Patrick Monahan (July 17), The Sounds of Simon tribute to Paul Simon (July 31) and live music with The Surfin' llamas (August 7).

Keep an eye on the website as with all events currently, the lineup may change www.soultonhall.co.uk

Breakfast at The Willows can be a Frosty Affair! - Relatively Speaking by Classic Theatre Company at Soulton Hall, from May 20

Relatively Speaking by Classic Theatre Company