Classics are brought to life in open-air theatre

Wind in the Willows at Belsay Hall'Chapterhouse Theatre Company
Wind in the Willows at Belsay Hall'Chapterhouse Theatre Company

IT’S a truth universally acknowledged that picnics and plays make for a pleasant evening’s entertainment — and Belsay Hall is offering just that.

Chapterhouse Theatre Company, which has been touring the UK and Ireland for more than a decade, will bring two literary classics to the stage.

Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice will be performed at the Northumberland estate on Saturday, followed by The Wind In The Willows by Kenneth Grahame on Friday, August 9.

Both productions have been adapted by Laura Turner, who has written for the BBC and scripted an episode of Eastenders’ spin-off E20.

Pride and Prejudice has been brought back into the Chapterhouse programme to coincide with the book’s 200th anniversary.

Audiences can meet Elizabeth Bennet, her sisters and their interfering mother, not to mention the enigmatic Mr Darcy, as they battle through misunderstandings, mistakes and miscommunication to find true love.

Ms Turner said: “I was not lucky enough to have the opportunity to study Pride and Prejudice at school or university, but have read the novel several times so I was thrilled to be asked to write an adaptation of it for the stage. It was a huge privilege to script my own version of this classic love story and I feel even more privileged to have it touring this year.

“I have tried to represent the original text as faithfully as possible and I hope very much that anyone who goes to see the play enjoys spending an afternoon with Elizabeth Bennet.”

The Wind In The Willows is a different affair, offering an animated re-telling of the classic story of friendship and adventure.

Families can watch as Badger, Ratty and Mole set out to find their perfect picnic spot, only to have their peaceful day turned into a rollercoaster of hilarious escapades and pitfalls by their lively friend Toad.

The production includes music, song and dance, traditional costume and even a woodland parade during the interval for everyone to join in.

Ms Turner said: “I was really excited to be asked to adapt The Wind In The Willows for our open-air tour this year.

“The original novel is so connected with the natural world, it is exciting to be able to bring it to life in the perfect surroundings of beautiful country houses and gardens.

“It makes a lovely family show, which provides the opportunity for audiences to bring along a picnic and join in the fun.”

She added: “It is always a big task to create an adaptation of a classic that people know and love. You have to try to embrace other people’s feelings about the story and make it as magical off the page as it is on.”

Audiences can take their own low-back seating, picnics and wine to the performances. Refreshments will be available and the shop will be open during the interval.

Pride and Prejudice begins at 7.30pm on Saturday. Gates open at 6.45pm and tickets cost £13 adult, £11 concessions and children, in advance, or £15 adult and £13 concession and children on the night.

The Wind In The Willows begins at 7pm on Friday, August 9. Gates open at 6.30pm and tickets cost £13 adult, £11 concessions and £9 children in advance, or £15 adult, £13 concession and £11 children on the night.

For further information, or to book tickets, call 0870 333 1183.