Theatre gets Guild award

The BGTW Tourism Awards are much sought after. John Ruler presented one that suggests the Entente Cordiale might survive even the hardest of Brexits…….

John Ruler prepares for the presentation (aided by Diana Hounslow, director Pas de Calais Tourism) to Michel Dagbert , left, with Sophie Warot, president of Pas de Calais Tourism.

All the world’s a stage  – as Shakespeare famously wrote – and one man in his time plays many parts. Which in my case meant handing over a guild Certificate of Merit to the Elizabethan Theatre at Hardelot in Pas de Calais.

The €6million project is not just France’s first theatre of its kind. With Brexit very much in mind, it is appropriately located in the Tudor inspired grounds of the Château d’Hardelot, restored and renamed in 2009 as the Entente Cordiale Cultural Centre.

As such,  said Michel Dagbert, president of the Pas de Calais region, it places “Franco-British history and heritage in the limelight”.

He added: “Up until the advent of the aeroplane, the Pas de Calais Department was an obligatory stepping stone for travellers journeying between France and Great Britain and vice ­versa.  These centuries of constant exchanges deeply marked our region. The battle of Agincourt, Calais lace, the soldiers who fought on our battlefields and the rediscovery of a lost Shakespeare First Folio in Saint Omer, are just a few examples.”

As for the theatre, designed by British architect Andrew Todd, who worked on the reconstruction of the Young Vic, the first thing that strikes you is the wooden clad exterior cleverly rounded by layered timbers.

Inside, spruce panels allow for exceptional acoustics – as I discovered during my congratulatory speech to 135 tourism related guests.

Other attributes include controlled natural light through a glass roof, seating allowing for 388 for an Elizabethan production as against 298 for opera. The theatre acts as a contemporary forum for as wide an audience as possible, staging not only plays and operas but musicals, cabaret, circus and visual arts.

All of which went down well with the Queen when a model of the project was shown to her in June 2014, on the occasion of her State visit to France. And if it is good enough for her, I thought, then surely its Guild award must have been well deserved.

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