10 years of Bard in the Botanics Venue of the Month

Bard in the Botanics will celebrate its 10th year in style this summer

Feature by Victoria McGilp | 01 Jul 2011

In 2002 directors Scott Palmer and Gordon Barr brought the works of Shakespeare to The Botanic Gardens thus combining the beauty of art and life together. With a great deal of determination and virtually no funding the men went on to create Bard in the Botanics – Scotland’s only dedicated Shakespeare Festival.

The Botanic Gardens are renowned for their variety of horticultural and botanical treasures which are found in their grounds situated near the River Kelvin.
The space has shown 250 individual performances to more than 50,000 people. Despite the vagaries of Scottish weather, only a handful of performances have been lost to rain.

Artistic Director Gordon Barr explains, “For the 10th anniversary season I wanted to bring together some of the greatest of the Bard’s works alongside a piece that is rarely performed. Not surprisingly, A Midsummer Night’s Dream topped the people’s poll of the play they most wanted to see in the 2011 programme. It will be our fourth production of this sparkling comedy, but fortunately it is a play that offers endless possibilities to a director.”

“We have never staged Hamlet before, so the 10th anniversary seemed an appropriate platform on which to present our first production of this great tragedy," he continues. "And in Pericles we get the chance to introduce audiences to one of the most rarely performed of Shakespeare’s plays.”

Paul Cunningham will play Hamlet with Nicole Cooper as Ophelia and Stephen Clyde as Polonius. This period production, directed by Jennifer Dick who has been a company regular since 2006, will be staged in the gardens but shall be moved under canvas weather forbidding.

Meanwhile, at Kibble Palace (one of the most prestigious iron and glass structures remaining from the Victorian era), Barr will bring to life Pericles, Prince of Tyre.

In 2008 Bard in the Botanics introduced an Emerging Artists scheme offering young actors the chance to perform alongside more experienced professionals. This year 22-year old Robert Elkin, currently a final year student at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (RSAMD) and 21-year old James Murfitt, currently a final year student at Queen Margaret University will join the cast.

Robert will play Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Rosencrantz in Hamlet, whilst James will play Demetrius in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Students of the RSAMD will also assist in the direction of Wars of the Roses. This connection between the new and old performers suggests that, far from being ready to rest on its laurels, BitB is looking towards the future.

Outdoors Shakespeare is popular around the world, and it is a testament to the West Coast's spirit that even Glasgow's notorious weather fails to undermine this annual success.


A Midsummer Night’s Dream 22 Jun–9 Jul

Hamlet 13 – 30 Jul

Pericles, Prince of Tyre 19 – 30 Jul

Tickets for the 2011 Bard in the Botanics can be purchased in advance by visiting the Citizens Theatre Box Office

The Wars of the Roses 6-8 Jul – Part 1 (Henry VI Part 1) 8 pm, 6 Jul; Part 2 (Henry VI Parts 2 & 3) 8 pm, 7 Jul; Part 3 (Richard III) 8pm 8 Jul