As towns and cities, the length and breadth of the UK, prepare for the Olympic Flame to pass through their streets, Much Ado About Wenlock visits Bath as part of a UK wide tour to over one hundred venues.
Giving a whole new insight into the Olympic Games, Much Ado About Wenlock appears at the egg theatre at the Theatre Royal Bath on Saturday 5th May at 11.30am and 3pm. This winning theatrical tale of Olympian feats is the latest stage production from Vamos Theatre, presented in association with The Everyman Theatre Cheltenham.
Set in 1850 and capturing the ethos of a modest Victorian household, crammed together under one roof, this delightfully dotty story, written and directed by Vamos’s artistic director and founder, Rachael Savage, is presented without words and behind full masks.
Few outside of Much Wenlock, the small Shropshire town on the Welsh borders, know that it is the true home and inspiration of the modern Olympic Games and thus the real starting place for the London 2012 event. Every July, Much Wenlock quietly celebrates its own “games” in honour of the town’s physician, Dr William Penny Brookes, a utopian figure who, in 1850, gloriously devised the idea that the working people of the town could be liberated from their labours, drunkenness and ill health through athleticism and other more curious forms of physical activity. This annual amateur event in Much Wenlock became the basis of his National Olympic Association, which would itself become the inspiration of the Frenchman Baron Pierre Fredy de Coubertin, the man most often credited with rekindling the Olympic torch in Athens in 1896.
Dr Brookes’ first games in 1850 did, of course, feature Olympian athletics. But they also included traditional English country sports and rather more bizarre events spotted by Rachael Savage’s artistic eye, ranging from the butcher’s son practising his hammer throws with un-plucked pheasants; and the knitting race.
In an enchanting, full mask performance featuring the fictional Sankey family, and other characters, Vamos Theatre weaves together fact and imagination to tell the tale of the visionary Dr Brookes, inspiring change in his community, in a funny, poignant and triumphant way. The characters take part in some unconventional as well as standard “games” producing surprising and uplifting results.
Vamos Theatre Company makes a welcome return to the egg theatre following their memorable 2010 production of Nursing Lives. For a heart-warming and heroic evening of human trials and endeavour, including sprinting, boxing and knitting, be sure to see Much Ado About Wenlock when it visits Bath’s egg theatre – you’ll never think about the Olympic Games in the same way again!