Robin Hood, Dukes Theatre production, Williamson Park, Lancaster

PUBLISHED: 00:00 19 July 2013

LAN Aug Dukes Theatre

LAN Aug Dukes Theatre

not Archant

Louise Bryning celebrates the return of the Dukes Theatre outdoor season to a revived Williamson Park

Actors and directors may come and go but since The Dukes began presenting outdoor theatre in Lancaster, Williamson Park has remained the star of the show. And on The Dukes return to the park this summer with its new walkabout production – Robin Hood – this special corner of Lancaster is looking better than ever.

The Dukes outdoor theatre season and Williamson Park’s regeneration went hand in hand during the late 80s when the promenade productions helped celebrate significant improvements to the parkland and its iconic centrepiece, the Ashton Memorial.

So it’s fitting that The Dukes dramatic comeback, after a year’s break from outdoor shows, coincides with more improvements, many of them in the park’s woodland. ‘If we made Robin Hood in our theatre space at The Dukes, we’d have to spend a lot of time and money creating the woods. In the park, they are there already,’ said The Dukes director, Joe Sumsion. ‘We’ve deliberately created a play where the audience journey through the woods. This taps into that sense of excitement people feel when they walk into a wood. There’s something in our DNA which attracts us to woods but also makes us a bit scared of them.’

Two scenes are in woodland while a third is performed in the ‘Council Chamber’ as it’s dotted with trees originally said to represent local councillors serving when the park was established.

It’s thanks to financial support from Lancaster City Council, Lancashire County Council and Arts Council England that The Dukes has been able to animate Williamson Park over the years. And Joe also acknowledges the improvements the city council have made to his ‘set’ recently.

Williamson Park operations manager, Will Griffith, added: ‘The park has been working closely with the production team to ensure all the areas are of the highest possible standard.’

Lancaster City Council, which took over the park in 2010, has seen its investment pay off with visitor figures increasing and the park being rated an excellent overall visitor attraction by Visit England.

With voluntary help, 500 native trees were planted in Fenham Carr and in February, 50 bird boxes built by Lancaster Farms Young Offenders Institute were installed.

The return of The Dukes park show has proved so popular that the run has been extended by a week and Robin Hood will now end on August 17.

For more information and to book, ring The Dukes box office on 01524 598500 or visit www.dukes-lancaster.org.

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