Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Record-breaking Bard at 37,000ft

Airline easyJet wants April 23 to be officially recognised as National William Shakespeare Day

The Reduced Shakespeare Company is believed to have set a new world record after its actors performed an abridged version of the playwright's works at more than 37,000ft.

The Bard's plays were performed under the title Shakes on a Plane in front of a captive audience on an easyJet flight from Gatwick, West Sussex, to Verona, Italy, in celebration of the 450th anniversary of his birth.

Actors Simon Cole, 38, Gary Fannin, 45, and William Meredith, 40, are believed to have set a Guinness World Record for the highest theatrical performance by acting continuously, at more than 37,000ft, for almost an hour during the 700-mile journey.

The performance has been recorded and is expected to be officially verified within the next week, an easyJet spokeswoman said.

Passengers smiled and clapped as the actors began with a 12-minute performance of Romeo and Juliet and charged up and down the length of the plane for the next hour, performing Shakespeare's comedies and tragedies, including Titus Andronicus, Othello, Macbeth, Julius Caesar and Hamlet.

As well as quick costume and wig changes, which were made in between the seats at the front of the plane, the actors used props including a shark puppet, a ukulele, a severed hand and plastic swords.

Passengers were even treated to a rap during the Othello performance.

Simon Cureton, 39, from Sydney, Australia, was on board the flight with his wife Linda, 34, and their four children Elisa, 10, Luca, seven, Isabella, six, and Carlo, five.

The couple, who had been staying in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, and were visiting Mrs Cureton's family in Verona, said they had no idea they were about to watch a world record attempt until they boarded the plane.

Mr Cureton said: "Certainly, this was the most entertaining flight I have ever taken.

"It was a fabulous performance and great for the children.

"We had front row seats and it was great the way they interacted with the children. We have got a picture of Carlo with the Macbeth head.

"It was a surprise but amazing to be part of a Guinness World Record.

"We would definitely go to see them again in London."

Passengers Katrina Brown, an inventor from Whistable, Kent, and George Livermore, 34, from Brighton, were asked to fill in forms to verify the performance had taken place.

Mr Livermore, who was celebrating his birthday by flying to Verona for an event run by the Italian Federation of Historical Fencing, said: "I loved it. I absolutely adored it.

"I have seen the Reduced Shakespeare Company a few times before and have always enjoyed them.

"They have got a lot more space in the theatre and they have done really well to adapt their acting to such a confined space."

After landing in Verona, Reduced Shakespeare Company producer Davey Naylor said: "It was absolutely fabulous performance.

"One of the problems we had was performing it along an aisle and not being able to use microphones on the plane.

"But I think everybody had a great time. We all certainly did.

"When we heard about it last month we kind of had a show in mind. The show is based on improvisation and we always say we can perform this show anywhere."

Mr Meredith said he and the other actors had found the experience "exhilarating" after spending time rehearsing in easyJet's Luton training centre.

He said: "We always pride ourselves on being able to do it anywhere.

"We had a fear there would be people on board who wanted to relax and not watch us but we could see that everybody was happy to be part of it.

"It's a tick off of my bucket-list."

The production, which took place on board a special edition easyJet plane, complete with a 10ft image of the Bard on the fuselage, was part of a wider campaign to make April 23 National William Shakespeare Day.

Heritage and culture remain one of the key drivers of tourism to the UK, according to Visit Britain, and the airline has run a month-long campaign to promote the best Shakespearean sites to visitors, as well as staging free performances of Shakespeare's work at check-in desks.

Paul Moore, communications director for easyJet, said the airline was proud to back the bid to make April 23 Shakespeare's national day.

Following the performance, he informed passengers: "You have just been part of a world record."

The campaign has also been backed by Stratford-upon-Avon MP Nadhim Zahawi and Bloomsbury Publishing, and needs 100,000 signatures by the end of July to take to a debate in Parliament.

For more information about the campaign and to add your support, visit www.easyJet.com/ShakespeareDay or #Shakesonaplane.

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