What's going on in Romford

PUBLISHED: 10:37 29 November 2010 | UPDATED: 15:23 20 February 2013

Darren Matthews as Parolles

Darren Matthews as Parolles

Romford Summer Theatre's annual Shakespeare production combines culture and community at Raphael Park each summer. Joanne Jarvis finds out more

SET IN a beautiful rock garden overlooking a lake, Romford Summer Theatre's performance of All's Well That Ends Well was the theatre company's 47th production.

Formed by Havering librarian Gordon Humby and school teacher Edwin Rudd almost half a century ago, the company's annual performances have become part of the local heritage and are remembered for excellent acting and flamboyant costumes.

Con Chandler, 81, one of the founding members of the RST who is still actively involved and helps with the costumes, explains: 'We set up the theatre because we wanted to bring Shakespeare to people who hadn't seen it before. After the war we were still suffering and putting a play on seemed to be a good idea and it has been going ever since. I have always loved Shakespeare and Shakespeare in the open air adds an extra dimension.'

Every year the audience arrives at the park with sleeping bags and umbrellas and looks forward to soup and bread in the interval.

Mrs Chandler adds: 'It's the sight of the audience that always stirs me and this year we've had an excellent response from the audience. Vernon Keeble-Watson, the director, has given it tremendous depth and it's very colourful.'

Set in the Cavalier period of 17th century Florence, this year's production directed by Vernon Keeble-Watson, told the tale of the daughter of an apothecary, Helena, played by Jessica Randell, who has her sights on the handsome hero, Bertram, played by Will Fox.

The 23-strong cast was made up of many members of the local community and varied incredibly in acting ability and age. Actors and actresses from six to 70 years old took part and were all firm friends by the end of the two-week run in June.

Primary school teacher Darren Matthews, 33, who played flamboyant villain Parolles, has been acting for almost a decade, but only joined RST four years ago after seeing an advert for rehearsals for the theatre.

Darren explains: 'I was doing all sorts of drama with various groups in Havering. It was thoroughly interesting stuff, but after a while I started looking for something more challenging. Of course I had studied Shakespeare at school and college, but acting it was a totally different thing.

'I certainly found my challenge with Parolles. The volume of dialogue was almost frightening at first, and I have to say it was quite a slog of mind-numbing repetition to learn it. It was not the largest role I have played, but it was certainly the most difficult.'

A time to celebrate
This involvement of the local community has been at the heart of the RST's success with thoughts already turning towards celebrations for the 50th anniversary. Before that, plans are already in place for next year's play, which will be held on the second and third week of June. The chosen play will be confirmed in November and auditions will be held in February 2009.

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