November 2021

“It’ll be what it is,” says Valerie Goodwin about her inclusive approach to the challenge of staging Shakespeare with a community drama group.

Valerie – a retired teacher who was head of drama at Beaminster School for 20 years – set up the Bridport Shakespeare Company (BSC) in 2016 with the aim of spreading her love for The Bard to absolutely anyone who wanted to come along and take part. Since then the company has performed several plays, including Twelfth Night, Measure for Measure and The Tempest. Members range in age from 12 to 70+, and include some of Valerie’s former students as well as drama enthusiasts with a huge variety of backgrounds.

BSC is now rehearsing for a 45-minute version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream next June at Bridport Community Shed, where the players currently rehearse. “Initially we used a room at the Chapel in the Garden, but Covid has meant we need to be in the open air,” says Valerie. “The Shed is perfect and we’re very happy there – everyone’s been so supportive and they’ve even helped us with making props.”

In September, BSC put on In a Strange Land, a fundraiser for the Bridport Refugee Support Campaign, in which they performed some scenes from The Tempest and ‘The Dream’ plus some songs and even a dance for the players and audience.

Valerie, who has a master’s degree in staging Shakespeare, stresses that BSC performances aren’t expected to be perfect. “Other groups are more selective,” she says, “but we’re all about a team effort, building confidence. Occasionally people use their script on stage, if that’s what it takes – particularly if we have a last-minute substitution if someone’s ill. This happened recently when Raja from the Shed stepped in to play Ferdinand! Also, people often play more than one part. We all muck in.”

Find the Bridport Shakespeare Company on Facebook. Rehearsals are at Bridport Community Shed on Mondays at 7pm (there is a well-ventilated covered area if it rains). There’s no audition to join the company, although there are auditions for individual parts in a production.