The Abbey Shakespeare Players are a largely amateur company of actors and musicians drawn from all over Britain by the magical setting of St Dogmaels Abbey in West Wales. We have presented a different Shakespeare play in the Abbey each summer for over three decades.
Our history stems from a touring student production from Corpus Christi College, Oxford. On the suggestion of Cecil Williams, the owner of a local garage in St Dogmaels, students from the college staged The Tempest in 1973. The theatrical potential of the site was obvious and a second summer production followed the next year.
Ten years later Mike and Jane Hall, who had in the meantime restored the village's water mill Y Felin, suggested that the plays might be revived. As a result, and with support from the vicar of St Thomas's church and Cadw, the Abbey Shakespeare Players were founded. The group included a core of actors involved in the original production along with friends and family from the local area and across the country. Twelfth Night was the first play performed in 1987. Since our founding we have put on performances every summer (apart from during the pandemic in 2020).
We are hugely grateful to the people of St Dogmaels, the Coach House and Cadw: Welsh Historic Monuments for their generosity and continued support.
Our productions are brought to life by live original music written by composer Richard Morris, with arranging and editorial contributions by Henry Ward, the director of local choir Cor Aberteifi. Music is performed both on and off stage: our shows have featured songs performed solo by cast members or as a full cast ensemble number.
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of Abbey Shakespeare Players productions in St Dogmaels Abbey we recorded a selection of Richard Morris's music from the plays which is available on CD.
Songs of Spring and Winter (Stretto Records) is played by the Abbey Shakespeare Consort, conducted by Paul Daniel.
To purchase a copy of the CD (£10+p&p) please send an email to email@example.com.
Proceeds from our productions are donated to local charities. In recent years, we have donated the majority of our proceeds to Hanes Llandoch. Hanes is a community charity which redeveloped the Coach House visitor centre at the bottom of the Abbey. In addition to being an arts and heritage centre, the Coach House is used for education and events. In 2009 Hanes founded the weekly Local Producers' Market, which draws visitors from across Pembrokeshire and was named the best food market in Britain by the BBC Food and Farming Awards in 2016.
During our history we have also donated proceeds to Croeso Teifi, the St Dogmaels War Memorial Fund, St Thomas' Church and Cardigan Flood Relief. We also take a collection after every performance to support the Royal National Lifeboat Institution at Poppit Sands.
In 2019, after the much-loved pub The White Hart was threatened with closure, we supported a local campaign to buy and run the pub as a community-owned enterprise. Many of our members became shareholders and the purchase was completed in January 2021.
The play is rehearsed from scratch on site in an intensive 10-day period, which is challenging but hugely enjoyable. We are an ensemble company that includes members with a professional performance background as well as experienced amateurs and relative newcomers. We aspire to put on professional-quality productions, which requires a high level of commitment to line learning, following direction and supporting other members of the company.
We do not usually run auditions. New members will usually try out in a smaller role in the first year and progress to a more substantial part in later productions. We're always happy to hear from actors and musicians keen to get involved: contact us via the links in the footer if you are interested.
Theatre director Edward Hall performed with us in two shows in the late 1980s. In 2011, our 25th anniversary year, we were delighted to name him our Honorary Patron.
In 1987 and 1988 I had the pleasure of acting in St Dogmaels in Twelfth Night and The Merchant Of Venice. I remember vividly the magic of performing in such a special spot and the feeling of community and shared ambition that is at the centre of any thriving theatrical enterprise. I am delighted and honoured to still be associated with the company that is now celebrating its twenty fifth year. A special moment for a unique enterprise. Here's to twenty five more.
Director, Propeller Theatre Company
Associate Director, National Theatre
Artistic Director, Hampstead Theatre