In July 1986, a performance of William Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors took place in the gardens of the Shakespeare Institute in Edgbaston Park Road, University of Birmingham – the home of the Shakespeare Institute from 1962 to 1988. The performance was given by Theatre Set-Up, a professional touring company specializing in outdoor performances in historic sites and natural settings across the United Kingdom and, from 1993, mainland Europe. The company aimed to retain the simplicity of Shakespeare’s own company, The King’s Men, using a minimum number of actors and props – this particular production uses just ten actors, playing up to three roles each.
Theatre Set-Up was founded in 1976 by Dr Wendy Mcphee, a graduate of the Shakespeare Institute, whose research on ‘Arcana in Shakespeare’s comedies’ was presented through Theatre Set-Up performances: plays were presented in the light of their secret meanings which formed the basis of cast rehearsals and which were uncovered during performance with the help of the plays’ programme notes. A number of these programmes, including this 1986 performance of The Comedy of Errors, are archived in the Shakespeare Institute Library pamphlet collection (pPN2596.5.T5)
The company continued to perform the plays of Shakespeare for thirty-five years until its last season in the summer of 2011 when, faced with closure, it transferred its costumes, gear and venues to the Gloucestershire-based Festival Players who now continue to encompass the work of Theatre Set-Up.
This Blog entry was enabled by the Shakespeare Institute Library’s vast newscuttings and Theatre Programme archives. The Newscuttings Index is located on the ground floor of the library where you will also find the cuttings files dating from 1995. Newscuttings files from 1982-1994 are on the top floor and the rest of the archive, dating back to 1902 is available on request from Library staff.
Theatre programmes for performances of Shakespeare’s plays across Companies, theatres and the world, some from as far back as the 1920s, are located in the pamphlet boxes on the top floor of the library.
Lorna Burslem and Jill Francis, Library Support Assistants