Oddsocks family survives lockdown by creating live Stay Home Shakespeare shows

Innovative founders of a Derbyshire theatre company are raising the curtain on their second online Shakespeare production.

By Gay Bolton
Wednesday, 17th June 2020, 6:17 pm
Andy Barrow and Elli Mackenzie  in a scene from A Midsummer Night's Dream which will be streamed online.
Andy Barrow and Elli Mackenzie in a scene from A Midsummer Night's Dream which will be streamed online.

An abridged version of A MIdsummer Night's Dream has been lovingly crafted at the home of Oddsocks Productions' artistic director Andy Barrow and creative producer Elli Mackenzie.

Supported by their son Felix and daughter Charlie, the couple will bring the Bard's comical creation to life in a live streaming on Friday, June 19.

At this time of year, Oddsocks would normally be performing shows outdoors up and down the country but lockdown has put a stop to that and the ever-resourceful founders are keeping their audiences entertained with Stay Home Shakespeare shows.

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Elli said: "Whilst we are very conscious that there has been so much lost due to the current crisis economically to our own organisation and artists and businesses across the world and so much awful suffering for so many people, we are at least fortunate that it has put us in a position of being at the start of something new.

"Creatives will always strive to create and adapt. As a company it has been the only way we have survived for three decades, through three recessions with no arts funding."

The family have teamed up with director and actor Kevin Kemp, who worked with Oddsocks for seven years before launching The Streaming Theatre in Los Angeles, and Kent-based director of photography Kee Ramsorrun, who has worked with the Derbyshire company on a number of projects.

Elli said: "The results of bringing so many skills and ideas together has created something we don't see being done anywhere else online currently."

Their debut digital collaboration, Macbeth, attracted more than 3,000 viewers on its first-night showing in May.

People tuning into A Midsummer Night's Dream can expect to see bonkers fairies and a fast moving plot as the Derby-based family move from room to room and change characters as they go.

Andy and Elli play all four lovers in the production, plus the roles of Oberon and Titania, Bottom and Peter Quince. Felix, 23, is playing the Fairy, Hermia's father Egeus and Francis Flute. Charlie, 19, takes on the roles of Puck, Duke Theseus and Snug.

Elli said: "We have often worked together as Oddsocks is a family business but never without other company members around in person. It's not always smooth running but it has brought us close together and kept us occupied in the long lockdown.

"It's a bit frustrating when we have to rearrange furniture and dress the house for rehearsal and then tidy it away if we hope to have any chance of a normal family life at the end of the day and over a weekend. But it is all worthwhile when you see the result."

The Oddsocks family plan to continue creating their online shows in the weeks ahead. Elli said: "Shakespeare for now and then perhaps other classics. We are currently planning our summer 2021 tour and we hope to be able to return to live performance in the New Year if possible, but given the possibility that there may be localised second or third waves of the virus, taking our productions back online on a regular basis may be the only way of keeping going.

"Lockdown has certainly highlighted for us what we love and miss about doing our shows in the outdoors...the travel, seeing new places and being able to have access to some of the most exciting and varied spaces we go to: Harlow Carr Gardens in Yorkshire, Gawsworth Hall in Cheshire, Markeaton Craft Village in Derby, Middleton Park Leeds, to name but a few.

"It is always fun dealing with the unpredictable nature of open-air performance: when wildlife walks across the stage or lands on the set, when airplanes fly over drowning us out, or indeed, when the heavens open up and the audience enjoy seeing how we cope with a full force gale. This is, I think, why we have adapted to the challenges of performing live at home. Challenges are what we are used to. From the responses so far, our audiences enjoy seeing us meet them at home for now until we can return to the great outdoors and venues across the country."

Catch the Oddsocks family in A Midsummer Night's Dream live on your laptop or mobile screen on Friday, June 19, at 7pm. Go to: https://www.twitch.tv/thestreamingtheatre