The quirky city of Cambridge has many traditions. Some are now centuries old, and whose origins and even meaning have been largely lost to time. Others are mere decades old, yet going strong. Right now we’re in the middle of one such traditional festival. One which we at the Varsity Hotel Cambridge greatly admire. The Cambridge Shakespeare Festival.
July and August are most definitely summer months. Despite the weather this July more resembling a long forgotten stereotype of English weather than more recent reality. But in Cambridge June doesn’t count as part of the summer due to the presence of the huge student population. While September does, due to their absence.
Given the importance of the University to the city, the effect that the stage of the academic year has on the feel of the city is intense. The streets go from teeming with students to desolate almost overnight. And then fill up with tourists and language students thereafter.
But what about the Colleges? These huge complexes in the heart of the city with large numbers of small residential rooms, meeting rooms, cafeterias, extensive grounds etc. What use are they put to over these lean months? Renovation is the obvious answer. And there are others too. But the one that is most eye-catching this time of year is the…
Cambridge Shakespeare Festival
The Cambridge Shakespeare festival is an outdoor pageant running all the way from early July to late August. It takes advantage of the empty College gardens to put on a show. Multiple of Shakespeare’s greatest plays are put on by a talented collection of players. Though it had to take a break in the past couple of years due to the recent unpleasantness, it has been running for about 40 years now. A young tradition by Cambridge standards. But an excellent one nevertheless.
But what’s so special about it? Well. Shakespeare’s plays have been performed for centuries now, and there have been so many adaptations and different formats. Top end theatrical and film adaptations have production values so high then can fully immerse you into the world. Yet this was never how it was intended.
Shakespeare was writing at a time when theatrical production values were at a minimum. You could get away with a costume change for the players. And perhaps a wooden stage backdrop or two. But complex scenery and special effects? Forget about it. Instead the Bard had to use his words as his way to set the stage. Weaving a visual tapestry in the minds of his audience. It was his genius. And it is this self same attitude that the Cambridge Shakespeare Festival seeks to emulate. You can’t do much set building with a patch of grass and the odd tree. But you can play these works as they
were intended – a feast for the ears and the imagination so rarely experienced in our smartphone obsessed world. That is why the Cambridge Shakespeare Festival is so well loved. And especially by us at the Varsity Hotel, a short walk away from all the venues.