The Australian Shakespeare Company’s summer outdoor productions have long been a much-loved Melbourne tradition and artistic director Glenn Elston is promising another season to remember.
“We are presenting a new production of 'A Midsummer Night’s Dream' with a new exciting cast and some hilarious new takes on the story,” Elston explained. "This will be on during the evening, while during the day the adventures continue for the great characters in 'The Wind in the Willows,' who will be returning to the Riverbank and Toad Hall. 'Alice in Wonderland' and all its madcap characters will be on their funny adventures at the magnificent Rippon Lea House and Gardens. Indoors at the air-conditioned Athenaeum Theatre, there will be a fairyland for 'Tinkerbell and the Dream Fairies' to play in and sing for all the little Fairies that want to join them.”
The success of the company’s shows is testament to Elston’s foresight and creativity.
He was working as a production manager at the Institute of Contemporary Art Theatre in London when he came up with the idea of presenting family theatre outdoors.
“I came back to Melbourne in 1987 to go into partnership at the Athenaeum Theatre, determined to get an adaption of 'The Wind in the Willows' on. Luckily the opportunity came along,” he recalled. “On the day that my first outdoor production of 'The Wind in the Willows' premiered in The Royal Botanic Garden I said, in all the excitement, we have to do this of a night time with 'A Midsummer Night’s Dream.' We have to light up the trees and make it magical. Two summers later we had the production up and running and it was magical. We have continued producing Shakespeare Under The Stars outdoors ever since.”
Together with these productions Elston has directed numerous other Shakespeare plays, adapted other classics such as “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” and written and directed seven family productions. His love of outdoor productions, however, shines through.
“These productions are a unique opportunity to enjoy fantastic, classic—and mostly comical—stories in a beautiful, natural environment,” Elston explained. “To be able to enjoy theatre while having a picnic under the stars and not be confined inside a theatre makes for a joyful and relaxed atmosphere that enhances the whole experience. People are at ease with the combination of art and nature and readily go along on the journey with the characters as they unfold the story. Our family shows are fun, accessible, interactive and exciting adventures that the audience get swept up in and become a part of the action.”
When not working on his great productions Elston can often be found walking along one of Melbourne’s beaches at sunset.
He’s also a great fan of Melbourne’s laneways for lunch, although his favourite restaurant, Ajitoya Japan’s Kitchen, is in Seddon. His favourite shop is Jay Dillon’s Clothing, which has stores on Little Collins Street and Chapel Street, and which he says has the best shirts ever.
He cites Melbourne’s historical theatres as must-see attractions for visitors to the city thanks to their rich cultural heritage.
“And, of course, the Royal Botanic Gardens is a must-see as it is one of the most beautiful gardens in the world,” Elston added.