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Theatre lovers enjoy Sherlock in the sun at Shrewsbury Castle

By Nick Humphreys | Shrewsbury | Theatre & Comedy | Published:

How do you solve the mystery of not being allowed inside a theatre? Elementary, dear Watson, pop to Shrewsbury Castle, bring a picnic, and kick back and enjoy the show.

Crowds enjoyed the Sherlock Holmes performance in the outdoors at Shrewsbury Castle

That's what several hundred sun-seeking arts lovers did as Theatre Severn staged performances of Sherlock Holmes at a makeshift open-air venue in the gardens of the castle.

With social distancing keeping many theatres shut, the arts industry is having to find innovative ways of bringing culture and showtime to the masses.

There were plenty of laughs during the performance organised by Theatre Severn
The Pantaloons Theatre Company in action

Open-air theatre, like back in medieval times, could be the way forward - at least while it's sunny. And Theatre Severn have shown they can make a success of it.

Ticketholders patiently queued before being shepherded through into the gardens, socially distanced, making sure they used hand sanitiser on their way in.

Crowds were in great spirits as they sat in their deckchairs and on their picnic blankets, basking in the glorious weather while enjoying the laughs provided by performers from the Pantaloons Theatre Company, who had Hodnet-raised and Shrewsbury College-trained Kelly Griffiths among the troupe.

Around 150 people watched each of the five shows

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The critically-acclaimed company put dynamic detective duo Holmes and Watson through their paces as they tackled their most fiendish case yet in an inventive and hilarious show. People of all ages enjoyed the show, which featured live music, audience interaction and more mystery than you could shake a magnifying glass at.

The Pantaloons crew performed with wit and gusto as they took the audience on a rollercoaster ride. The actors took all challenges in their stride, including projecting their voices so people in the back could hear, and dealing with fake moustaches losing their stickiness and falling off in the heat.

Olivia Hewings, front of house manager at Theatre Severn, was pleased with how the shows went.

The theatre group was supposed to be in Scotland but the tour was cancelled

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"There's been a lot of things to remember to get everything set up, but I think we got there," she said. "We've got good experience of managing events. We're keeping all the groups two metres apart to make sure it's safe for everyone. Everyone has been really good about it and has been following the social distancing.

"The Pantaloons tour all over the country. They were supposed to be in Scotland this summer, but that got cancelled because of the different restrictions there, so we've very lucky to have them.

"We're unable to have people in our theatre yet, unfortunately, but it's great that we're able to do something like this.

Sherlock Holmes in the grounds of Shrewsbury Castle

"We'll see how this weekend goes, it was something we had hoped to do anyway. There is obviously an appetite for theatre. I think people are ready for it.

"We'll have to take things like the weather into consideration, but we might have more shows like this. I'd say watch this space."

In all, the troupe did five shows - one on Friday evening, as well as daytime and evening performances on Saturday and Sunday. Around 150 people watched each show.

Olivia added: "We've missed our customers so we're so excited to be back. I think people have been desperate to go out and see a show."

Nick Humphreys

By Nick Humphreys
Senior Reporter

Senior reporter for the Shropshire Star focusing on Shrewsbury.

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