Working with the LGBTQ+ community, Better Start parents and community groups in Blackpool as part of Shakespeare Nation.

Shakespeare Nation is our national programme aimed at adult communities who might not think theatre and Shakespeare are for them. Here you can see more about our work with our Regional Partner, Blackpool Grand Theatre.

Blackpool Grand Theatre exterior with doors closed
Grand Theatre, Blackpool
© Blackpool Grand Theatre Browse and license our images

Henry VI: Rebellion

74 adults from Blackpool, Bradford, Canterbury, Cornwall, Norwich and Nottingham appeared alongside the professional cast in 2022's Henry VI: Rebellion. They played the roles of working people who take part in the rebellion led by the character of Jack Cade against Henry VI, and townsfolk in a scene where Henry VI is out hunting.

Initially they rehearsed in their local theatres before taking to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre stage from April 2022, with each group appearing in around four performances.

A group of people of different ages stood outside the Grand Theatre in Blackpool.
Shakespeare Nation participants who performed in Henry VI: Rebellion.
Photo by Jo Cleasby © Jo Cleasby Browse and license our images

A Grand Romance in Blackpool

In 2019, adults in Blackpool created their own version of Romeo and Juliet. The group performed 'A Grand Romance', directed by Jo Cleasby, at the Grand Theatre, with some of the performance taking place on Blackpool’s iconic promenade. The production mixed extracts of Romeo and Juliet with personal stories of love and romance in Blackpool.

The group of volunteers included members of Blackpool’s LGBTQ+ community, Liberty Church, hoteliers, Better Start parents and a community choir. Our Deputy Artistic Director Erica Whyman, who watched the production, called the show "a heartfelt celebration of love and romance, and a touching love letter to Blackpool itself.”

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Once More Unto The Beach

During lockdown, we worked with Blackpool Grand to hold online sessions with community groups in Blackpool, who explored their hopes and fears of going back into the world.

Many of those who took part were older and living in isolation, some with underlying health issues. They met once a week with our voice practitioners and actors to create a version of Henry V’s great battle speech Once More Unto The Breach. You can watch the video on YouTube.

Watch on YouTube

The Shakespeare Nation adult engagement work is generously supported by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation

The Oakley Charitable Trust: Supporting the involvement of Next Generation Act and Shakespeare Nation in Henry VI: Rebellion