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Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre: Hercules

Today (armed with waterproofs, deckchairs, a picnic, several umbrellas and sunglasses) we ventured out to Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre in Chester to watch a very fabulous adaptation of  ‘Hercules’.

Part of Grosvenor Park has been transported into an insular theatre, yet one that pulls on the natural surroundings.  There is something very perfect about watching a live show and hearing birds fidgeting in the trees, about hearing sirens blasting past and about hearing the sound of children’s laughter carrying from elsewhere in the park.  It was very much a pulling on a moment, on something that felt old and authentic. Once upon a time many stories were told in this way, with a cast of travelling actors playing numerous parts and musical instruments. This was acting and performance in its most natural state of being.

I really loved it.

The especially built stage blended into the natural setting of the park, giving an organic feel as the characters weaved in and out of the audience. There was a sense of honesty and wholesome storytelling that made me feel truly happy. This was about stepping back in time, stripping back a story to a crafted script and excellent character performances. This wasn’t about special effects or deafening sounds, this was about  grounded, family entertainment. We sat in the picnic area so close to the stage that we felt that we were part of the performance, perhaps we were.

Today I was reminded about just how much I love the art of storytelling.

I honestly feel that being outdoors added something ‘magical’ to the performance. The children were so engaged, didn’t fidget and Littlest giggled lots. At one stage Middlest was given a ‘high five’ from a character playing a lion, which made him feel utterly important. The children loved it and not once did they ask how long was left (which, as any parents know, is a clear sign of enjoyment!).

This adaptation of  ‘Hercules’  is written in such a way that it is suitable for 7+ , pulling on the original myth yet not at all patronising (I’m sure this is why the children enjoyed it so much). Hercules had murdered his wife and children, this is acknowledged with an awareness of audience. The actual storytelling, the utterly perfect script made this performance thought provoking, yet funny and fresh.

Some amazing actors have  joined together to create this new theatre company. The talent was breathtaking, fluid and ultra professional. I would have sworn that the cast was so much bigger than it really was, which is surely a reflection of their skill. I especially loved the Nemean Lion (pictured above), when he smiled at me I blushed (It’s true, I am middle aged).

So, full of picnic, skin warmed by the sun and head full of story… we all thoroughly enjoyed the performance. If you can get to see this show, I really and truly urge you to do so. You won’t be disappointed.

(To find out more about Chester Performs and the available performances, you can visit their website, or you can call 0843 208 0500 or you can book online or call into Chester Tourist Information Centre)

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