When was the last time you allowed yourself to be entertained by no more than some talented folk in costume, a stage and an old record player? If you’re still considering the answer to this question, then it has been too long, and Bard at the Botanics are on hand to rectify the situation. Whether you are a faithful, returning audience member or a theatre-going novice, check out our reasons to enjoy a performance this season, and get yourself along with some camp chairs and a picnic. You won’t forget it!

Bard in the Botanics are now in their fifteenth year of performing Shakespeare in Glasgow’s Botanic Gardens. We caught up with director Jennifer Dick to get the lowdown on the showdown (just go with it) and find out more about the productions. We also lip-synced our way through a stellar performance of Twelfth Night, and the review can be found below.

1. They are experts at delivering Shakespeare in new ways

This year, Bard in the Botanics celebrate their fifteenth anniversary. Jennifer says:

“Our motto has always been: Be brave, be bold. During the first year of productions, we all had to figure it out as we went. Both onstage and backstage, we all now have a lot of experience of how to put these shows on.”

This year’s performances are based around the theme of ‘Vaulting Ambition’, and they involve cross-dressing, fallen angels, formidable female warriors and yellow stockings. Intrigued?

2. Outdoors is the new indoors is the new outdoors

In Shakespeare’s day, you were lucky to have a theatre, let alone a roof. There is nothing quite like watching a Shakespearean drama unfolding before your eyes, whilst sitting below (hopefully) clear skies, tucking into a wee picnic and wondering how long it will be before a dog/small child/curious bystander will accidentally wander onto the set and start joining in. Jennifer says:

“It feels very relaxed and it also feels like the audience are just as important to the performance as the actors. During the renaissance, people stood for hours and brought rotten fruit to throw. Luckily, people now bring picnics and chairs and I love an evening like this, it’s just glorious!”

Glasgow cultivates a healthy theatre scene, as well as some of the loveliest parks ever seen within city boundaries – they don’t call it the Dear Green Place for nothing. Bard in the Botanics joins the two together, and the setting in the gardens, or in the Kibble Palace, adds to the charm immeasurably.

Robert Elkin as Viola/Cesario in Twelfth Night. Photo credit: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan

4. They’re bringing us more than just Shakespeare

If you are getting a little tired of the greatest playwright who ever lived, then fear not. The fifteenth year celebrations include a whole new strand woven in to the botanical magic: Writing the Renaissance. If you thought some of Shakespeare’s scenes were gory, then rest assured that he was in good company. The team begin this year by interpreting Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus, and this tragic tale of dancing with devils, necromancy and magic is thrilling and controversial in equal measures.

It’s a radical adaptation but it’s also, I hope, true to the essence of that story”

… says Jennifer, who has always wanted to direct the drama, and now brings its murky underworld to the Glasgow Botanics with a cast of just three.

Kirk Bage and Stephanie McGregor as Feste and Sir Toby Belch in Twelfth Night. Photo credit: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan

5. Twelfth Night in the swinging sixties gets the season off to a great start

“Even when we’re doing titles that are fairly popular, we work very hard to tell it in a way that would be fresh and exciting. That keeps the creative juices going!”

It is named after a historical holiday, the end of a wintertime festival, and it was celebrated by upending normal social roles: princes become paupers, whoever finds a bean in a pie becomes the ruler of the chaos and anyone can take advantage of the topsy-turvy world they inhabit for just one night. The singalongs establish a festival feel in this adaptation, and the gender-swapping, uncertainty and tentative romances are explored with sleek and elegant sixties style. The characters might be dressed sharp, but they are just as clueless and comical as the rest of us when it comes to navigating the tangled web of flirtations which seems to have entrapped everyone in Illyria. All will be revealed in the final scene, but there’s a lot of fun and amusement to be had before then. When asked about the ideal audience, Jennifer says;

We try to appeal as much to a wee granny as to a 10 year old. I think our audiences are very loyal. They seem to enjoy things that are a bit left-field!

As far as we’re concerned, the wackier the better. Shakespeare can rest assured that he’ll never go out of fashion as long as the Bard continues to be brought to the Botanics. Get yourself along to a performance this season, Glasgow. You won’t be disappointed.

Bard in the Botanics: For more info check out their Facebook page or website! The performances run until 30th July, and take place, weather-permitting, each day apart from Sundays/Mondays.