Hampstead Players compete to play in world’s largest Shakespeare festival

A Hampstead theatre troupe is hoping to win over a judging panel and secure a spot to perform at the home of the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-Upon-Avon – at one of the biggest ever festivals dedicated to the Bard.

Stratford-Upon-Avon – at one of the biggest ever festivals dedicated to the Bard.

Accountants, financial analysts and City workers from Hampstead village and around will battle it out against 19 other amateur dramatic companies from London and the South East to be crowned regional winners of the RSC’s Open Stages competition.


The regional winner will perform at the World Shakespeare Festival in Stratford-upon-Avon, which started this week and runs until November.

The Hampstead Players are pinning their hopes on a performance of part two of The Winter’s Tale at the Questors Theatre in Ealing tomorrow evening (Friday) – which will be only the second time the company has performed in a real theatre.

Director John Willmer claims to have a surprise up his sleeve.

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“It has been done before, but only by a few others,” he said.

“It will be a bit of a surprise if there are not a number of people in the audience who will feel quite emotional by the end of it.”

The company, based at Hampstead Parish Church, counts a 7/7 survivor among its number and relies on its actors rather than elaborate sets and props to entertain audiences.

The Players first performed their production of The Winter’s Tale last July, but have had to substitute three actors for the latest performance.

Actor Matthew Williams, who will take on two key roles and has directed three plays for the company, said: “We really rely very much on our actors and as this festival is about encouraging amateur groups to perform Shakespeare, we can be part of that wide range.”