PREPARATIONS for the Castle Players’ annual summer production have begun early.

Rehearsals for Twelfth Night are already underway and the company were put through their vocal paces by experienced professional voice coach, Michael Corbidge.

Corbidge has worked professionally in the theatre for over thirty-five years. After training at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School in 1981 he has gone on to work internationally as an actor, director, and writer, and since 2010 has worked as Senior Voice and Text Coach for the Royal Shakespeare Company. In this role last year, he worked with members of the Castle Players who were cast to play the mechanicals in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s national touring production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream - a Play for the Nation.

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Working alongside experienced professional actors, and in a production by the country’s most prestigious theatre company, was an inspiration, and Jill Cole, director of Twelfth Night, was eager for the invaluable association to continue.

“Those of us who took part in the ‘Dream16’ project with the RSC last year gained so much and it felt really important to be able to share some of that experience first hand with other members of The Castle Players,” said Cole.

Corbidge shared his skills and expertise with twenty-five participants during Saturday’s all-day workshop introducing exercises to help develop vocal skills and explore Shakespeare’s text. “I wanted to give everyone a thorough overview of my own training and professional experience - all 35 years of it in one day!” said Corbidge, “So we needed to move fast. Everyone worked with such keenness and enthusiasm that it’s been both a pleasure and a joy, and I have nothing but respect for this company whose values I can also learn from”.

His expertise and enthusiasm for Shakespeare’s text was infectious, and the workshop participants gained invaluable advice and skills from the workshop. Ben Pearson, who performed in A Midsummer Night’s Dream last year said: “Michael creates a wonderfully comfortable and inclusive environment that enables everyone, whatever their experience, to feel totally at home. I've found all of his coaching sessions life-affirming as well as enriching my own approach and enjoyment of acting.”

Twelfth Night plays from Tuesday 4th- Saturday 8th July in the grounds of the Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle.

Tickets on general sale from May 2nd at: www.thewitham.org.uk

by phone: 01833 631107 or in person at The Witham, Barnard Castle