Culture & Events

Dawn Summer Shakespeare turns 30

A unique event on Hamilton’s performing arts calendar is currently marking its 30th anniversary.

The city’s annual outdoor Summer Shakespeare season and its dawn show, produced by the Slip of the Tongue theatre company, began at the Hamilton Gardens in February 1989.

This week, ‘Pericles Prince of Tyre’ is playing at ‘The Beach’ down from the Gardens’ main carpark, with the penultimate show at 7.30pm tonight (Friday 22 February) and the magical dawn finale starting at 4am on Sunday morning (Sunday 24 February).

“Its wonderful that Shakespeare is still being done, outdoors and free” says Alec Forbes, who began the tradition by producing and directing ‘The Tempest’ at the Gardens back in 1989. He came up with the idea of putting on a dawn show, which has been surprisingly popular ever since that first outing a few months before the fall of the Berlin Wall.

‘Pericles’ Producer-Director Pip Smith says the current season has again been a success and that, despite its vintage, Summer Shakespeare is still developing.

“Accessibility to participation is very important. We’ve had lots of new younger actors this year, plus I did our first-ever workshop, in Te Awamutu, which went really well too,” says Pip. “We’re looking to move towards youth development and connecting with audiences in different ways.”

Most of this year’s cast and crew were not born in 1989, but two people involved at the outset are again on board. Martin Fisher is in the band, and Maria Eaton, who was one of Ariel’s Sprites in 1989, continues to do the costumes, as she has since the mid-90s.

Summer Shakespeare at the Gardens pre-dated the wider Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival by some years and it is said to have prompted the idea of the festival. The production is usually toured around the Waikato before and/or after the Gardens season, with appearances at Te Pahu and Te Awamutu being regular bookings. This year ‘Pericles’ was also put on for two nights at the new Victoria on the River, the first time the Summer Shakespeare has been held in the CBD since the early 1990s.

Slip of the Tongue’s Summer Shakespeare is free to attend, with a hat circulated for donations at half time and the end. Bring a picnic and something to sit on.

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