One of Norwich’s renowned beauty spots is ready for the Bard’s return to the outdoor stage, Norwich Cathedral’s cloisters.

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In association with the Eastern Daily Press, the Norwich Shakespeare Festival opens tonight – and hopes for the sun to shine and the rain to hold off are high.

The yellow glow from the Norman cathedral walls, and the spire piercing the blue sky will complete what is set to be a picturesque string of summer evening events hosted on raised staging tucked inside the cloisters.

And judging by the continual success of the past four years of the GB Theatre Company’s performance in the city, even wind and rain won’t dampen the spirits of the city’s culture vultures.

After last year’s reviews and fully booked seats for Romeo & Juliet and Twelfth Night, this year the romantic setting will host performances of Shakespeare’s comedy The Taming of the Shrew and the epic The Tempest.

The Taming of the Shrew, directed by Jenny Stephens, director of BBC Radio 4’s The Archers, shown tonight and Friday night, focuses on a couple’s relationship and the calming of the headstrong Katherina – a woman who has a violent temper and reputation for shrewishness.

Tomorrow and Saturday’s production of The Tempest centres on a shipwreck on a distant island, ruled by a magic art, bringing out the themes of love, truth and time.

Directed by Jack Shepherd, 71, well known for his role in ITV’s Wycliffe, the director and actor has ample experience with the words of Shakespeare.

He said: “With this production I have really tried to look at the play and strip away all the parts that amount to clichés.

“And you don’t always make friends doing that, because people miss them and have got used to them.”

The themes at the centre of both play’s over the next four days – love, compromise, magic and truth – all have a timeless classic nature which is what makes Shakespeare still so relevant and popular with audiences.

Actor Desmond Barrit, patron of the Shakespeare Festival, described how Shakespeare’s works straddled time.

He said: “Even if some people understand none, or some or all of Shakespeare, I still think everyone can get something out of it.”

Cecile Tuddenham, marketing officer at the cathedral, said she was hoping the weather would be “wonderful” for the performances.

She said: “I have written to God especially asking him to ensure it.

“But us Brits have a bulldog spirit, so I am sure even if it rains we will soldier on and fully enjoy it.”

She added: “We have already sold out for tonight’s performance, and Thursday is limited. But do remember to bring warm clothing and waterproofs, but no umbrellas.

“The performance will, of course, continue whatever the weather.”

The Eastern Daily Press will be reviewing the opening night of both performances.

The Taming of the Shrew will be performed at Norwich Cathedral tonight and Friday, with The Tempest tomorrow and Saturday, all at 7pm, £18 (Wed-Thurs)/£20 (Fri-Sat), £14 (cons), under-5s free, 01603 218323, www.cathedral.org.uk; www.gbtheatrecompany.com

rosa.mcmahon@archant.co.uk

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