“ Outdoor Theatre Company / Contact: North Hall / Spencer Yard / Leamington Spa / CV31 3SY / England / Tel: 01926 430307 „
Earlier this summer I went to Warkworth Castle with my friend and we picked up a leaflet for Heartbreak Productions. The front of the leaflet was advertising the productions that were occurring at Warkworth Castle this summer (An Ideal Husband and The Secret Garden.) I'd never heard of this company before but I love the theatre, Warkworth Castle and The Secret Garden so I couldn't think of a better night out!
== Who are Heartbreak Productions? ==
Heartbreak productions are a touring open air theatre company who are based in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire. Every summer they tour the length and breadth of the UK, bringing open air theatre to audiences all over the country. They perform at historical venues and gardens around the country. The company have been touring for almost 20 years and all of their funding comes from the ticket sales.
"Our aim is to create a unique format that delivers a blend of inventive, passionate acting, live music and dance with fun, humour and plenty of audience interaction."
If I had not gone to Warkworth Castle this summer I would not have heard of this company, so I am glad that I did as I think this is a company I will be looking out for in the future. Also, I did not see the performances advertised anywhere other than Warkworth (and their website) so I think they get a lot of their business through word of mouth. I will certainly be telling my friends about them for next summer!
== Ticket Prices ==
The prices for the performances at Warkworth Castle were as follows:
Child: £10 (The Secret Garden Only)
If you booked the tickets in advance you received a £2 discount, so as my friend and I are both students we just paid £10 each. It was certainly £10 well spent!!
The leaflet states that times and ticket prices vary for each venue, so it would be worth checking the website/ phoning the box office of the venue to find out more information.
== The Secret Garden, 18th August 2010, Warkworth Castle, Northumberland ==
Warkworth Castle is in ruin so the show was inside the castle walls, but it was outdoors as it has no roof. I think Warkworth Castle is beautiful and picturesque, and a perfect setting for an outdoor show. There was a small stage set up on the grass, with lights around it for after dark.
Upon arrival at Warkworth Castle there were people dressed in vintage clothing showing us where to put our seats/blankets. They made sure that everyone would be able to see the show from where they were sitting. They were really friendly and helpful and I didn't realise until the show started that they were actually the actors from the show.
Ten minutes before the performance began, we were introduced to some characters at a Horticultural show in 1910, the people at the show had prize vegetables etc, and they used this opportunity to sell the programmes (which were made to look like newsletters from the Horticultural show), as well as 'lucky' bags which contained a 'Best in show' rosette, a whistling bird and a light up butterfly (which were used as audience participation within the performance.) The lucky bags were £3.50 each or two for £5.
The performance began at the Horticultural show and then it became very 'windy' and all the characters were then from the story of The Secret Garden. The transition was done well and the audience quickly got pulled into the story.
There were 5 actors/actresses in the performance so they all played more than one character. It was done brilliantly and all the performances were superb. The set was simple but effective and they changed it really well given the size and number of performers. They did all the set changing themselves and it was done smoothly and effectively and did not affect the performance at all.
There was audience participation both in the form of using the butterflies and birds people purchased (we didn't, but all the lit up butterflies looked lovely and really appealed to the children) and also they spoke to some people e.g. when they were looking for a 'Mrs Robin' for the robin red breast in the story.
The story was lovely and very similar to the book/film. They made is very enjoyable to watch with audience interaction, humour and brilliant acting. We were sitting on low backed picnic chairs (as were lots of people) and there were people on blankets too. They welcome the audience to bring their own picnic, which we did and this added to our enjoyment of the evening.
The show lasted 2 hours with a 15 minute interval. During the interval there was opportunity to enter a prize draw (entry form was inside the programme) and this was drawn at the end of the show. The winner won 4 tickets to a performance of their choice for next summer.
'the show must go on' is Heartbreak's motto so bad weather does not deter them from performing. We were lucky to get a dry (albeit freezing cold!) evening but I think should it have rained the experience would not have been quite so enjoyable. I would definitely say take warm clothes with you as we do live in the UK and British weather is hardly great after dark!
== Other information ==
All venues have toilet facilities and many sell hot and cold drinks (Warkworth Castle being one of these). Heartbreak work with the venues that offer total access to able-bodied and disabled people alike to ensure everyone can enjoy the open air experience.
Things to remember:
* Take warm clothing for after dark
* Take a torch so you can find your way back to the car
* Take a waterproof in case it rains
* Bring a picnic :)
== Conclusion ==
I cannot recommend Heartbreak Productions enough. The actors were brilliant, the setting beautiful, the story lovely and the atmosphere pleasant and relaxed. All the adults and children in the audience seemed to enjoy the performance as much as me. There were young children right through to elderly people and the performance kept everyone entertained. I've only seen one production from them, but I will certainly be looking out for their work next summer.
Thanks for reading! :)