North Country Theatre is 20 years old this year and celebrating with a packed year of performances, which begin in March with Egil Skallagrimsson Keeps His Head a tongue in cheek take on the 10th century Icelandic Egil Saga. In the summer the company will move outdoors for their first ever Shakespeare – Twelfth Night and in the autumn there’s a new adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s spooky short story The Wish House touring to village halls and arts centres from the Scottish Borders to South Shropshire.
The company started with a ground breaking stage adaptation of John Buchan’s The Thirty-Nine Steps which opened at the Georgian Theatre Royal Richmond in 1996. The play has now been seen by thousands of people worldwide and ran in the West End for nearly 10 years. In the following 20 years North Country Theatre has gone on to create over 30 touring productions, three large scale community plays, numerous educational projects for primary school children and site specific interpretative dramas for venues as varied as Brodsworth Hall, Fountains Abbey and Kiplin Hall.
But it is the rural north that is North Country Theatre’s home and Artistic Director Nobby Dimon is excited by the year ahead setting himself new challenges as well as re-interpreting existing productions. In the summer there will be a real celebration with a North Country take on Shakespeare’s gender bending comedy Twelfth Night with a cast of 10 actors all of whom have appeared with the company sometime in the last two decades.
“This is a first for North Country not only because it will be the largest professional cast the company has employed – but also because it will be the first Shakespeare I have ever directed – or indeed performed in” said Nobby Dimon. There will only be 8 performances of this popular comedy all outdoors at spectacular venues including Aske Hall [June 23 & 24], Bolton Castle [June 29 & 30] and Kiplin Hall [July 1 & 2]. “It is rather fitting that we are at Aske as that is where former D&S reporter and the first Chair of our Board was working at the time of her death 1997, and she had plans for us to do outdoor theatre at Aske back then”
The company is also mentoring first time director Vivienne Garnett, who has performed with North Country many times since her professional debut with them in The Imitation Game in 2005 most recently in The Gift of Stones 2015. She will direct the autumn tour of Kipling’s The Wish House which will be adapted for the stage by Nobby Dimon.
To keep up with developments in this celebratory year keep an eye on our website and our North Country Theatre Facebook page or catch up with the company’s new punk version of Scandi-noir type drama based on the Egil Skallagrimmson (2016) at Bellerby village hall on 12th March, Hunton Village Hall on 14th, Masham Town Hall on 15th, Reeth Memorial Hall on 18th, North Stainley 19th, Husthwaite 22nd and finally Kirklington on 23rd.