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Stafford Festival Shakespeare: comedy legends set to shine

By Staf Newsletter  |  Posted: March 06, 2014

By Gail Atkinson

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A DOUBLE bill of comedy gold is in store for Stafford Festival Shakespeare fans, the Newsletter can reveal.

Producers of As You Like It have signed comedy legend John Challis – Boycie from Only Fools and Horses – to play Jaques.

They are also bringing back funnyman Eric Potts for his fourth stint in the annual bard fest to take on the role of Touchstone.

Potts has become the go to choice in recent years for the outdoor production staged at Stafford Castle and he can’t stay away.

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Challis may have to go back further but he remembers only too well the last time he performed at the castle.

The year was 2000 and the weather was one of those thankfully rare occasions when the Heavens opened on the cast.

He was playing Malvolio and not to put too find a point on it he got soaked.

Only a couple of years ago he performed in Ludlow’s outdoor Shakespeare production and suffered the same fate.

This year he will play in both towns as the inaugural year of an agreement that will see Stafford Festival Shakespeare play in Ludlow for two weeks before opening here.

“I played Stafford in 12th Night in 2000. The weather was shocking that’s all I can remember but the audience were undercover,” he said.

“I did Ludlow a couple of years ago and the weather was shocking then but the audience was out in the open there.”

For a seasoned actor like Challis – he has trodden the boards in London and New York – it’s all part of the job and thankfully didn’t put him off a return gig in the county town.

This summer he will take on the role of Jaques – one of Duke Senior’s attendants who has a reputation for being melancholy and he is looking forward to revisiting some of Stafford’s historic sites.

“Stafford is an interesting town with the history of the castle. I’m into old properties. I live in as 12th century property and it’s full of holes after the weather we’ve had.”

Jacques is a part he has been told for years he should play and he admits to some mixed emotions.

“He’s got the ‘all the world’s a stage’ speech which is completely terrifying because everybody knows it. I’m pretty terrified of doing it. It’s one of those parts that people have said over the years that I should play.

“There are a lot of Shakespeare aficionados out there and they can recite great chunks of it but I’m looking forward to it.”

With a wealth of television and theatre credits to his name he says it’s a tough choice which he prefers but his actor’s heart tips the balance.

“Most actors say they prefer to work on television so they can afford to work in theatre because theatre is notoriously badly paid but most actors would say that’s what they prefer.”

Mr Potts said: “I really am looking forward to coming back. I enjoy being in Stafford very much and I have never played this character before,” said Potts.

“I know already from tradition the show will have great music and will be lots of fun.”

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