Actress’s garden used to stage Shakespeare play

Penelope Lee hosts A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Upottery production that used nothing but the best.

It was a case of nothing but the best when the grounds of a private home in Upottery hosted a creative delight that ultimately raised hundreds of pounds for the parish church.

With costumes hired from The Royal Shakespeare Company and some of the South West’s best young acting talent on the cast list, director Kate Littlewood pulled off a major coup when she staged A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

The play was performed in the grounds of the former Upottery Manor, in actress Penelope Lee’s garden.

Ms Lee, a familiar voice on BBC Radio for decades, said: “The last four weeks have been a time of unique, creative delight for everyone who has been involved.

“After 35 years in the professional theatre, I can’t remember anything quite like it: the garden full of strangers, who said one after another ‘This has been complete magic!’.”

A sunken garden, on the foundations of the Elizabethan manor, lit by 100 lanterns as the light faded, and the plateau beyond, with its great copper beech tree and view over the Otter Valley, was the setting for the play.

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The cast of gifted young people worked well with Ms Littlewood, whose early theatre experience was with Sir Trevor Nunn, director of The Royal Shakespeare Company.

The company enjoyed working together so much that plans are unfolding for another Shakespeare play in Upottery next summer and for Twelfth Night to be performed, possibly in St Michael’s Church, Honiton, at Christmas.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream raised �500 for the church, by far the oldest building in Upottery. The tower was built in 1295.