Keele drama

The annual Shakespeare

Drama has always been important at Keele - and Drama was one of the very first student societies to be founded by the original pioneer students in 1950. A Shakespeare play followed, and an annual "outdoor Shakespeare" has been performed every year since 1951.

The first Shakespeares

Some later Shakespeares

"We did a production of Much Ado About Nothing - probably in 1959 or 1960. From memory Tulla Tallianos (1960) was Beatrice and I think Frank Moorey (1961) was Benedick, I was Hero and I think Neil (?) was Claudio."

Jocelyn Ryder-Smith (1962)

"The production that Jill Budd (Garnett) (1963) and I remember was Hamlet, almost certainly in 1959/60, but could just have been 1960/61. We think that this was probably one of the best productions of Hamlet ever (amateur or professional) because it picked up very astutely Hamlet's 'Angry Young Man' persona (very topical at the time of the production). Although the performance on the night we saw it had a couple of very memorable glitches, the cast coped brilliantly: the recording of the cock-crow in Act I, Scene I came out as a high-pitched crackle as the new-fangled tape got stuck probably. And then when Polonius (Oliver Beer) was stabbed behind the arras in Act III Scene IV his shoulders jammed in the frame and the whole thing collapsed. As John Samuel mentions, it was Tony Scott who was the 'star' at that time."

Tony Budd (1963)

Barry Pegg, who played Laertes in Hamlet, also sang in Don Schlapp's madrigal group (along with seven other of us). At one meeting of the group post-Barry's theatrical work, Barry revealed that he had done pretty badly in one of his exams, and Don said to him in the most sympathetic manner " Alas, you can't make a Hamlet without breaking Peggs". I rather thought that Bryan Reed was something of a feature in Drama life. He came up in 1955 he graduated in '59 and, I think, died young."

Brian Sutcliffe (1959)

As a relic of the ‘fifties, though, I can only offer one reminiscence - that of a production in the Clock Tower courtyard, which I recall as Romeo and Juliet (1956?) where I was a member of the crowd of spectators. My visual of this was Tybalt’s death scene, played splendidly by Bernie Gibbons, as he was in those days; I especially remember his electrifying eyes! Hey, nostalgia!"

Tony Powell (1959)

"Macbeth was the first play I appeared in at Keele in my first autumn term of 1972. It worked very well in the Chapel context and was well received. It was on the final night that the WW2 dagger I had been using to kill Banquo (Paul Dalton (1974)) all week got caught in my cape and arced its way into the back of my thigh. What we were doing with such a weapon I have no idea. They hadn’t invented health and safety then. We carried the corpse off, me at the head end, and I dropped Banquo unceremoniously onto the hard floor with a bump. It wasn’t a serious wound but I did have to have it stitched, not, I am happy to say before I got to see the director Nick Baggott (1974) kicked down the steps in my place by Macbeth for being a cream-faced loon. It was actually worth the stitches. Sorry, Nick."

Steve Tingle (1976)

Return to the Clock House - 1981


"This photo (right) shows the covered seating for the reinstitated open air Shakespeare in the Clockhouse Courtyard in June 1981 (Twelfth Night). The University had some mobile raked seating and as Stage manager I had to design, order and build a covering in case of inclement weather (a wise precaution). I had never done anything like this before but got the materials and orders for scaffolding and tarpaulins right and delivered in time for construction from 8am on the Sunday morning (much to the chagrin of the resident Vice-Chancellor and wife hoping for a lie in). Fortunately had a guy called Alistair on the production team who worked for a building firm during vacations and so could actually lead us in the building of it (remembering him swing from roof pole to pole still gives me cold sweats). Out of sight are two scaffold towers either side to carry the large spotlights - from the top of one of which Stuart Ross (microbiology lecturer and technical stalwart of the Society during the 1980s) controlled the lighting. You have never seen someone move so fast downwards as he when lightning came during one performance!"

Steve Barks (1982)

The annual Shakespeare tradition has continued uninterruptedly ever since 1951. After many years' absence, Keele Drama Society returned to the Clock House Courtyard to perform A Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare, directed by James Ryley and Polly Harrison in 2015, restoring the annual tradition of playing in the courtyard! The 2016 production of As you Like it, directed by Mark Holland and Huw Brentnall, continued the tradition and saw a pastoral rendition of the play be brought to life under a wonderful canopy.

Twelfth Night 250x355 richard-ii-poster


Above: Twelfth Night was performed by the Forest of Light in 2014; Richard II, The Clock House, 2018