About

We believe there is no better way to tell you about our work than in the words of those who have seen our shows. 

Everything you’ll read below was written by reviewers and audience members.

Discover what we’re all about, in the words of those who know best.

MERELY THEATRE

Welcome to sweaty Shakespeare.

We are a company with a vision and a mission to present Shakespeare bare and in your face… at a cracking pace. We are committed to spreading the love of Shakespeare around the country.

A Merely show absolutely explodes with energy, (so crackling it nearly blew one audience into the balcony!), and the excitement that the cast project is infectious.

At the same time, we plunge the auditorium into pin-drop silences, delivering delicious and tender moments, giving you plenty to laugh at as well as cry over.

Our minimalist approach creates an emphatic focus on clear storytelling… a great device that requires stripping the text bare, doubling and tripling parts like fury and driving the action poundingly forward.

This allows the audience to completely focus on the story and empowers us to use resourcefulness and invention, playfulness and dedication to create theatre that is moving and inspired, bawdy, passionate and ridiculously entertaining.

The plot unfolds with frantic pace, but absolute clarity, while being as relevant now as it was when it was first written.

The audience are encouraged to interact and the company play with them, and keep them involved, inviting them into the world of the play amidst a contagious atmosphere of creativity.

 

ACTORS

We are reviving repertory theatre with great gusto. Indeed, if Sir Ian McKellen needs any more support for his claim that repertory theatres should return as a dominant force in Britain, he should look no further.

Our shows are performed by a massively hard-working cast that works slickly and tightly. They are so dynamic and mobile, so full of energy, life and colour that it’s hard to take your eyes off them. Each time one actor begins to edge ahead of the rest, another leaps ahead with an especially stellar scene.

The collaborative work from these performers creates a very accessible world and a great atmosphere for the audience. The company bubbles, tumbles and buffets its way through a performance like rushing water over rapids. The joy of performing blasts off the stage.

 

P.S. Oh, also: we are a genderblind company. This means we want to make sure when it comes to casting, gender is irrelevant (and totally unnoticeable, which means it’s been handled correctly).

The genderblind idea has its genesis in Elizabethan theatre. In Shakespeare’s time, all parts were played by men, so mixing up the sexes is just a modern extension of that theatrical tradition.

Gender blind? Gender fluid? Gender doesn’t matter.  

 

AUDIENCE

We connect to the audience, and we’re told we do this better than anyone else.

We use frequent direct appeals to the audience whether onstage, in the audience, offstage or into the auditorium, obliterating the boundaries of the fourth wall.

We create the inclusiveness of being a groundling at the Globe, in an atmosphere that reflects what Shakespeare could and should be in this modern generation. We want you gripped from the prologue to the epilogue.

“As a cast of five we have to generate the energy of twenty, and that energy is created for the audience. Because the audience exists in the world of the show, and because they matter deeply to each character we play, we feed off the energy they give back to us. So the final experience is one created with the audience, not at them. This lifts our shows to a whole other level.” Robert Myles, company member.

 

TEXT

We aim to bring a new clarity to the text that makes the plays delightfully easy to understand. We fight to make sure every line is clear, to flesh out the nuances and observations in the Bard’s writing in a simple, accessible way.

With Merely, you can understand Shakespeare with no previous experience necessary.

Well-worn phrases come out fresh-minted, stripped of the accretion of centuries of interpretation… of any genuflection toward the cult of Shakespeare, of any sense that only those who know can understand.

It's a clarification of what seems to have been there all the time but you haven't been able to put your finger on before now.

Our priority is proving that Shakespearian language can still be delivered and received as well as it was centuries ago.

 

IN SHORT

People call it ‘Sweaty Shakespeare’. A genderblind company of five actors ‘explode with energy’ all around you. Audiences share ‘delighted laughter’ alongside ‘pin-drop silences’. Shakespeare's text is ‘delightfully easy to understand’, ‘vibrant and alive’. Characters that are ‘poignant’, ‘moving’, and ‘shockingly funny’. Shows that are ‘bare and in your face’, full of ‘resourcefulness and invention’. Merely Theatre make Shakespeare that is as ‘relevant’ and ‘understandable as it was when it was first written’, making the theatre ‘resonate with life’.

 

COMPANY HISTORY

2010 - The Merely Players

The company was first created by Artistic Director Scott Ellis to produce stripped back productions of Shakespeare's classic works. The company first produced Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream and Hamlet, together with newly published play Last Man Standing. Throughout these productions, the company were praised for their impeccable text work.

2014 - Merely Shakespeare

The Merely Players embarked on an ambitious new project, Merely Shakespeare. Stripping back costumes, sets and props, the company set out to perform full-cast productions of Shakespeare's best known works for one night only at the Cockpit Theatre. Once a month, every month, with just eight rehearsals to stage the plays.

This venture was a huge success, and saw sold out audiences and standing ovations. The Cockpit was home to performances of A Comedy Of Errors, Romeo & Juliet, Macbeth, As You Like It, Henry IV Part I, Twelfth Night, Julius Caesar & The Taming Of The Shrew.

2015 - Merely Theatre & The Genderblind Rep

The Merely Players became Merely Theatre, and reformatted their work. Scaling down to a core company of just ten actors, five male and five female, they undertook a radical reinvention of their stripped-back style, becoming the first fully gender blind Shakespeare company. Tatty Hennessy joined the company as associate director.

2016 - National Tour

From January to May of 2016, Merely Theatre embarked on their first national tour, supported using public funding by Arts Council England. Performing over forty shows in over twenty different venues throughout England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, the gender-blind rep mounted productions of A Midsummer Night's Dream and Henry V.

Over the course of the tour the company played both the Lincoln and Wakefield Theatre Royal, King's Theatre Edinburgh, Theatre At The Mill Newton Abbey, and many more vibrant venues. The tour drew an overwhelmingly positive response from audiences and critics alike,  including sold out shows, standing ovations and hundreds of excited tweets.

2017 - Romeo & Juliet and Twelfth Night

Merely Theatre embarked on a second national two with two of Shakespeare's most famous plays, the thrilling romantic tragedy Romeo & Juliet and the vibrant, poignant comedy Twelfth Night. Their 2017 tour has just been extended due to popular demand, making it the company's largest tour to date. The shows were loved by critics and audiences alike, enjoying multiple five star reviews and playing both in celebrated theatres and at select open air theatre festivals.

Discover more about the remaining dates.

Get updates on upcoming productions and news!

Your Name:

Your Email: