AN original musical based around a pub crawl may not seem like it has much in common with a production of Shakespeare in a country house. But Chattyboo Productions are taking on both at the end of this month, and for company founder Angela Newman, the two are not so far apart.
“When you think about it, what Shakespeare produced was popular theatre of the time, it was a night out or an afternoon out where they drank the whole way through and there was bear fighting at half-time,” she said. “His comedies have bawdy, satirical humour.”
This is particularly true for the play they are taking on, the bacchanalian celebration of love and summer that is A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
“It is very like adult panto,” Angela said. “Not comparing us to Shakespeare, but it is the same genre as it would have been 400 years ago when he produced it so it’s not actually that far away. Once you get through the barrier of the language it is quite similar in its entertainment form.
“A lot of people would associate Shakespeare with snobbish theatre but once you get down to the nitty gritty it is not. The language is wonderful, it is clever, fast-paced, all the things that modern pub theatre is.
“Although on paper it seems a huge leap, to me it is a natural progression. When we got the call to do the two things, the same week, we thought, yeah cool, we can do that.”
In the 11 years since Angela began Chattyboo Productions, the Douglas-based group has become known in particular for its adult panto, running for six weeks every Christmas in Cork city. This summer’s original production is building on the success of the pantomime.
“The adult panto is our most popular production, we’ve completely sold out for the last three years,” Angela said.
“For a couple of years people have been saying, ‘Do we really have to wait a whole year to see another comedy like this from you guys’ and that got us thinking.
“My background is musical theatre and three years ago I got into talks with Tom Doyle, who is an extremely talented musical director and composer, based in Cork.
“Last year we tested the waters with a tried and tested musical, I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, in the Spailpín Fánach as well, and it worked really well.”
Boosted by that success, this year they are putting on their own original production, Pubcrawl — The Musical. It is directed by Judie Chalmers, with music composed by Tom Doyle and stars Angela, Marie O’Donovan, James Deegan and Pearse O’Donoghue.
“We have been writing Pubcrawl for two years and we will be opening at the end of May,” Angela said.
“It’s our first one of this kind, we did a preview in the Rob Roy in Cobh, it went down really well.”
While preparing for Pubcrawl, they got a call from Kinsale Literary Festival. A ball is being held in Ballinacurra House on May 31 to raise funds for the festival in October. Last year’s Jane Austen themed ball was a sell-out success and this year organisers are taking the Shakespeare play as the inspiration for the evening.
“We are doing a very condensed version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Ballinacurra House, with three actors,” Angela said.
Their performance will form one part of the entertainment on the night, which also includes a prosecco reception and a three-course meal followed by dancing. It means the actors have a lot to pack into a short time.
“They will be doing the most popular scenes, the ones the people would know, and the ones that drive the story forward,” Angela said. “We are basically going to try and tell the whole story in 30 minutes!
“It will be very fast paced and a lot of fun, because A Midsummer Night’s Dream is fun anyway, it is comedy, it is madcap.
“It will be really exciting, the three actors are working hard on it at the moment and it is shaping up to be quite an interesting night. Because there are only three of them they are all playing multiple characters — lots of fast changes and girls playing boys and boys playing girls. All very Shakespearean!”
What is also notable about the two productions is neither takes place in a theatre.
“It is a manor house and beautiful surroundings in Ballinacurra House and An Spailpín Fánach is a pub, they are both spaces that people don’t associate with theatre,” she said. “But they are both steeped in history and are places where people have been entertained for a long time.
“It is nice to think outside the box and use these spaces for productions.”
Pubcrawl — The Musical runs in An Spailpín Fánach from May 29 to June 16, tickets available at buytickets.at/chattybooproductions.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream Ball takes place in Ballinacurra House on May 31, tickets available at www.wordsbywater.ie.