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Past: Demi-paradise was established by actor Stephen Tomlin as the first ever resident professional theatre company at Lancaster Castle. Between 2000 and 2016 his rolling ensemble of 120 northern based actors and creatives presented critically acclaimed popular promenade productions of Shakespeare alongside other annual entertainments. An Equity/Peter Brook award nominated company, Demi-paradise was also commissioned to entertain HM The Queen when she visited in 2015.

Current: Following his move in 2017 to live permanently in Northumberland, Stephen reconstituted Demi-paradise as a small scale touring company specialising in intimate bespoke live audio presentations. Haunted: Ghost Stories for Halloween and Winter Warmer: A Celebration of Yuletide in Words & Music were subsequently launched during 2018.

‘An Evening with Susie White – Writing The Guardian Country Diary’. On Saturday 27th April we’re producing a cross cultural literary collaboration. Susie White will be talking about and taking questions on her career as a garden writer and regional National Garden Scheme organiser. Stephen Tomlin will be reading a selection of Susie’s regular contributions to The Guardian’s long established ‘Country Diary’ column as well as poems that have inspired her. It all takes place in the intimate setting of Sarah Robinson-Gay’s delightful art gallery in Hexham’s Old Town quarter and will compliment an exciting exhibition of group artwork being showcased there during the Hexham Book Festival. Given the limited space to view the exhibition and seat the event tickets are strictly limited. 

News Update: ‘An Evening with Susie White’ sold out two days after tickets went on sale. To meet public demand we will reprise the event at the same time on Thursday 23rd May. Contact gallery owner and event host Sarah Robinson-Gay on 01434 – 601972 or e.mail shop@robinsongay.co.uk to book. Tickets at £10, to include complimentary drink.

‘Summer Hauntings’: We return to Newcastle’s much loved city centre arts institute, the Lit & Phil, with three more brilliant ghost stories, part of a week long festival marking the magical days of mid-summer. As before our readers will be narrating a trio of classic and modern tales. The programme includes Edith Nesbit’s ‘The Violet Car’  (1904), the first known short story to feature a motor car as main protagonist!                                                                 Performance Date: Thursday 27th June. Tickets £7/£5 Call 0191 232 0192 or e.mail library@litandphil.org.uk

Haunted returns by popular demand this autumn with a new set of literary ghost story readings on an extended tour embracing new cultural venues. See the Haunted page for full tour details…

A BRIEF HISTORY OF

AT LANCASTER CASTLE 2000-2016

‘This royal throne of kings, this sceptered isle…This other Eden, demi-paradise…’ (Richard II)

Othello scene in Shire Hall

Othello company in Shire Hall

Demi-paradise staged 10 full scale productions of Shakespeare’s plays in and around the castle’s Shire Hall working law courts complex. They all involved live music and song except Othello, which had a specially composed electronic soundtrack by MD Lee Affen. Later productions were rendered especially memorable in being interpreted and recorded by professional artists-in-residence whose work was later shown at the Dukes Theatre Lancaster, Hexham Queens Hall, Lancaster University and Theatre by the Lake Keswick.

MoV Jessica & Lorenzo

Merchant of Venice: Jessica (Kate Gilbert ) & Lorenzo (Lewis Marsh)

The company’s productions of Richard II (2000), Measure for Measure (2001) Macbeth (2002), All’s Well That Ends Well (2004), Richard III (2006), Hamlet (2008), The Merchant of Venice (2010), Much Ado About Nothing (2012), Othello (2014) and Measure for Measure (2016) all reflected the building’s history as royal fortress, prison, court, asylum & seat of government.

MAAN Comic plotters med

Much Ado…Don Pedro (Richard Sails) Leonato (David Frederickson) and Claudio (Adam Jowett)

In recognition of this outstanding achievement demi-paradise was runner up for the Equity Ensemble Prize, one of the Peter Brook/Empty Space Awards, judged by national newspaper critics and presented in London at the National Theatre Studios to shortlisted UK theatre companies otherwise unsupported by public funds.

Hamlet King&Queen med

Hamlet: Gertrude (Sarah Thurstan) & Claudius (Simon Kirk)

Due to the restricted sizes of the playing spaces – two working law courts, corridors, landings, barristers library, ancient cells & medieval tower – audience capacity was strictly limited to 60 ticket holders for each performance.

MAAN Hadrians Tower Matt Music

Much Ado About Nothing: Conrad (Matthew Ganley) in Hadrian’s Tower

ROYAL COMMAND PERFORMANCE

The company was commissioned by Buckingham Palace to welcome The Queen as Duke of Lancaster on her last visit to the castle, in 2015. Stephen Tomlin as director introduced and set the action, an extract from Act I Scene 2 of Richard II, played out on the steps of the castle’s Norman keep. HM afterwards expressed herself delighted with the entertainment and felt the castle ideal for the performance of Shakespeare, an opinion widely shared with our successive casts, creatives and audiences!

Richard II : Duke of Lancaster (George Telfer) & Duke of York (Robert Garrett)