Cast relish roles in community production
THE Wells Theatre Festival, which will present another exciting programme of theatre and performance art this summer, has announced the casting for this year’s community production of William Shakespeare’s romantic comedy, Much Ado About Nothing.
The play will be performed in front of the Cathedral and will be the centrepiece of this year’s festival, running from July 11-14.
Following the sell-out success of last year’s production of Romeo and Juliet, this year’s company is made up of a mix of returning stars and some new faces from among the residents of Wells and surrounding area.
Lee Housley, who played Sampson and Balthasar last year, has landed the leading role of Benedick alongside newcomer Jennie Harris as Beatrice.
Local resident and father of two, Lee studied Shakespeare at university. He said: “I love Shakespeare. I think Benedick is a wonderfully written character. He’s essentially ridiculous which suits me as I sympathise with him.
“I played two small roles in last year’s production of Romeo and Juliet and found the experience joyous and rewarding. I couldn’t wait for the Wells Theatre Festival to roll around for its second year. Ros, the director, does such a calm and meticulous job that she makes it easy for us.”
Jennie, who is 22, is from Bristol but grew up in Wells, and plans to move to London to study acting at the Academy of Live and Recorded Arts.
Last year’s leading lady Beth Millward, aged 18, will play Hero, and another newcomer, Toby Heather, aged 20, will play Claudio.
Beth said: “Being cast as the lead role in Romeo and Juliet in last year’s festival was an extraordinary experience. The role was challenging in all areas but it was totally worth it. I met some lovely people and have grown friendships with those I was lucky enough to share the stage with.
“This year, I will be developing another leading role as Hero. This year’s festival will be bigger and better, and I cannot wait for another challenge, as I prepare for my future of hopefully becoming a professional actress.”
Toby, who works as a waiter, studied at Oxford Drama School. He said: “I am looking forward to performing in front of the Cathedral because it opens theatre up to the public.”
In keeping with the time-honoured tradition of cross gender casting in Shakespeare’s plays, a number of the male roles will be taken by female cast members. Caroline Bruce, who played the Nurse in last year’s production, will take on the role of Dogberry, and Jenny Kingston, who played Lady Capulet, will play Don Pedro.
Jenny, an orthodontist based in Wells, said: “I played Lady Capulet in Romeo and Juliet last year. It’s addictive and as good as any dangerous sport as a stress reliever. I made new friends too.
“That’s why I’m back again. So pleased to have been chosen for this intriguing role.”
Caroline, who is now parish consultant for the Anglican Diocese of Bath and Wells, has a background as a performer and a drama teacher. She said: “I am so delighted to be back for another year and excited to be playing Dogberry. He is a bumbling, self-satisfied local watchman, a wonderful comic role.”
More about the festival at www.wellstheatrefestival.org
• Picture: Much Ado About Nothing cast members: Oswald McCarthy as Verges, Sandra Cole, Watch, Caroline Bruce as Dogberry, Olivia Wharton, Watch, Terry Thomas as Seacole, and Cecila Quaintrell, Watch