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Bard's women take to the stage


By Val Sweeney

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Alison Ozog and Sasha Devine in Twelth Night.
Alison Ozog and Sasha Devine in Twelth Night.

A compilation of scenes highlighting Shakespeare’s leading women will feature in an online production by Inverness theatre group, The Florians.

The Bard’s Delights - An Evening with Shakespeare’s Women is being presented in memory of John Claudius.

Mr Claudius, who introduced the club to performing Shakespeare, was terminally ill at the time rehearsals started.

Sadly, he passed away in December but the group decided to screen the pre-recorded production in his memory from April 1-3.

Directed by Alan Holling and Maureen Pringle, it includes excerpts from Romeo and Juliet, The Taming of the Shrew, The Merchant of Venice, Much Ado About Nothing and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Christine Fletcher and Trevor Nicol in Midsummer Night's Dream.
Christine Fletcher and Trevor Nicol in Midsummer Night's Dream.

Mr Holling took over as president last July when the club decided to carry on productions throughout the coronavirus pandemic using virtual platforms.

It had just finished its first virtual production when Mr Claudius was diagnosed with a terminal illness so plans for a second production were changed to become a tribute to his contribution to the club’s work.

Mr Holling said: “John and his wife Jean’s background in theatre performance and costume design in prestigious venues in London had a profound influence on the Florians as John introduced us, in his own gently humorous way, to works of classical theatre including the works of Shakespeare.

“We, therefore, decided to present to him excerpts from some of the works he would enjoy and narrowed the choice down to eight plays featuring leading female roles.

“Sadly John passed away suddenly before he could see the results of this tribute and the production is now being presented in his memory.”

John Claudius with Inverness Provost Helen Carmichael. Picture: Matthias Kremer
John Claudius with Inverness Provost Helen Carmichael. Picture: Matthias Kremer

The excerpts for the one-hour programme were selected to allow participation by as many club members as possible and include a wide range of female characters and their male counterparts.

A cast of 15 appears in 26 scenes.

Mr Holling said performing so many scenes live on each night – as achieved in the first virtual production – was not an option and so each scene was recorded separately and edited together by production manager Geoff Burns.

Aimee Vincent, and Christine Fletcher in Romeo and Juliet.
Aimee Vincent, and Christine Fletcher in Romeo and Juliet.

Challenges included enabling a cast, generally unfamiliar with Shakespeare, to present his words in an understandable and accessible way to every audience.

Mr Holling continued: “The next challenge is to present the plays in as dynamic a way as possible whilst working with the limitations of a computer screen.

“We are all now so used to seeing people being interviewed remotely that we expect to see just faces looking at a screen, usually whilst sitting comfortably.”

There were also the spacial, lighting and equipment constraints of working in the cast members’ homes plus internet connections.

But he said the spirit of “the show must go on” had prevailed, adding: “I am sure that John would have been delighted with the result and that the audience will be, too,” he added.

Tickets can be bought from www.florians.org.uk.


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