The lunatic, the lover and the poet

The course of true love never did run smooth... Picture: THE PANTALOONS

The course of true love never did run smooth... Picture: THE PANTALOONS - Credit: Archant

East Anglian touring theatre company The Pantaloons are bringing A Midsummer Night's Dream to a venue near you.

Puck uses love potion no.9... or is it no.5 Picture: THE PANTALOONS

Puck uses love potion no.9... or is it no.5 Picture: THE PANTALOONS - Credit: Archant

sfdfdf. The Pantaloons are in Suffolk and Norfolk this week with their outdoor production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Lynne Mortimer talks to producer Mark Hayward about his 57-date tour... and Travelodges

Give us a 'hey'; give us a 'ho', give us a 'hey nonny no!' is the familiar cry of the touring Pantaloon.

The Pantaloons theatre company, which has its home in East Anglia, is in Suffolk and Norfolk, next week, with their production of William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Over the summer, this young troupe of travelling actors will be performing all over the country and next week they are mostly in Suffolk, Norfolk and North Essex.

Open air theatre by The Pantaloons in front of Christchurch Mansion

Open air theatre by The Pantaloons in front of Christchurch Mansion - Credit: Archant

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The Pantaloons, uniquely, promise a show that is both accessible and faithful to the text while being hilariously contemporary. Four of the five actors, who have been on the road since June 21, have appeared in previous Pantaloons' productions. Two of them were in the spring tour of Pride and Prejudice in which, notably, Mr Darcy does not get wet... because, they gleefully point out, that bit is not in the book!

The name of the company comes from one of the characters in the traditional Italian commedia dell'arte, with its colourful players and anarchic story-telling.

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Mark Hayward is actor, producer and co-founder of The Pantaloons and he, together with Steve Purcell, associate professor of literature at the University of Warwick, are artistic directors of the company. Mark's wife Caitlin is also a Pantaloons actor and producer.

Mark, who lives near Saffron Walden and hails from Suffolk, says: 'Our aim is to always to give a performance which is experimental, eye-catching, moving and, above all, fun.'

Magic and mayhem in A Midsummer Night's Dream. Picture: THE PANTALOONS

Magic and mayhem in A Midsummer Night's Dream. Picture: THE PANTALOONS - Credit: Archant

Does the variable English weather have an impact on performances?

'Over the 12 years The Pantaloons have been performing outdoors, we have cancelled only a handful of performances. The actors have become inured to all weather conditions – a shower of rain can be refreshing.' he jokes.

'But seriously, although people complain about English summers, most of the time the weather is good.'

Does the show change at all as the tour progresses?

'The actors always respond to their audience and, in that respect, no two performances are exactly the same. They also develop the comedy over the course of the run and a few extras may creep in... although nothing that compromises Shakespeare's verse.'

Mark who was born and brought up in Ipswich made his first stage appearance, aged two, in the pantomime Babes in the Wood. His first professional engagement was as Tiny Tim in A Christmas Carol at the Wolsey Theatre, in Ipswich, aged eight. With his earnings he bought his first guitar and today, he composes music for the The Pantaloons. All the cast sing and play instruments in the productions.

Do they stay in theatrical digs during the tour?

'The actors usually stay in Travelodges although there are a few venues that offer accommodation,' says Mark. 'They have become very knowledgeable about Travelodges.' He muses that they could probably make them a specialist subject on Mastermind.

Over more than a decade, The Pantaloons have gathered a loyal following and many audience members are regulars and friends. What could a new Pantalooner expect from A Midsummer Night's Dream?

'It will be magical and it will have unexpected moments... ones that Shakespeare would undoubtedly have put in if he had been writing today. But although there is some directorial whimsy, the story is told in Shakespeare's own words. We want people who know the play to be happy that the production is faithful to the text and we want people who haven't seen a Shakespeare play to be captivated and excited by what they see.'

A father of two young boys, Mark says: 'Our style is accessible for everyone: from younger children, who enjoy the interactive moments and live music, to teenagers who discover a fun new way to approach their Shakespeare studies; from people who have never seen a Shakespeare production before to die-hard Bard fans who get all the inter-textual jokes.'

'In our productions the audience's imagination is just as important as ours', he says. 'We invite them into the world of the play and a scene's direction can completely change based on an audience member's suggestion.'

Where to find the roving Pantaloons

This week The Pantaloons are at Christchurch Park, Ipswich (Wednesday, July 5); Eye Castle (Thursday, July 6); Fairhaven Woodland and Water Garden, South Walsham (Friday, July 7); Sheringham Park (Saturday July 8) and St Mark's College, Audley End, Saffron Walden on Sunday 9... just a few of their 57 venues.

All the tour dates and booking can be found at They include dates at Hedingham Castle and Hyde Hall in Essex; How Hill House, Dilham, and Diss in Norfolk; and Ickworth in Suffolk, over the summer.

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