The Lord Chamberlain’s Men is an open-air theatre company built upon the same principles that William Shakespeare himself followed: presenting bold, clear and dynamic productions to excite, delight and captivate you, our audience.
Performed at some of the most beautiful and historically significant venues throughout the UK and Europe, watching The Lord Chamberlain’s Men is a unique experience. With the formality of the theatre left far behind, you are transported and enchanted by an all-male ensemble performing some of the finest literature in history with Elizabethan costume, music and dance.
The 21st Century
Founded in 2004 and named after Shakespeare’s original troupe of travelling players, The Lord Chamberlain’s Men has quickly established itself as the UK’s premier open-air touring theatre company.
Touring to over 80 venues throughout the UK and internationally over the summer months, The Lord Chamberlain’s Men brings its unique blend of all male Shakespearean entertainment to only the most beautiful and historic open air venues, where the audiences can sit under the stars, sip a glass of wine and enjoy a picnic while being enthralled in true Elizabethan fashion.
The actor-musicians of the company follow the same principles that Shakespeare himself championed: clear, bold and dynamic storytelling in the open air, seasoned with a healthy dose of music, songs and comedy combine to make a Lord Chamberlain’s Men production the perfect way to spend a summer’s evening.
The Lord Chamberlain’s Men has gone from strength to strength, and continues to enhance its reputation as the UK’s most popular outdoor touring Shakespeare company.
The 16th century
The Lord Chamberlain’s Men was the playing company that William Shakespeare worked for as actor and playwright for nearly a third of his career.
Formed at the end of a period of flux in the theatrical world of London, it had become, by 1603, one of the two leading companies of the city and was subsequently patronised by James I and renamed The King’s Men.
The company was founded during the reign of Queen Elizabeth in 1594, under the patronage of Henry Carey, 1st Baron Hunsdon, the then Lord Chamberlain, who was in charge of court entertainments. After its patron’s death in 1596, the company came under the patronage of his son, George Carey, 2nd Baron Hunsdon, for whom it was briefly known as Lord Hunsdon’s Men until he in turn became Lord Chamberlain in 1597, whereupon it reverted to its previous name.
For most of its life, the company was one of the most prominent of its day, favoured by commoners and aristocracy alike – indeed The Lord Chamberlain’s Men was often invited to perform at Court, and records show that Queen Elizabeth I preferred them above all other companies. Such was the enthusiasm of the next monarch, James I, he even agreed to grant the company Royal Patronage.
The original company began life at a playhouse called The Theatre, northeast of the City of London. The owner of that land, however, had become firmly opposed to letting plays continue at The Theatre, and thus the company entered the late 1590s without a regular playhouse, though records indicate that they performed at the Curtain Theatre in Shoreditch while planning a permanent home. This situation changed when the company leased land in Southwark and, taking the framing timbers from The Theatre, constructed the now world-renowned Globe Theatre.
Between 1594 and 1603, The Lord Chamberlain’s Men played almost continuously in London, touring only when the threat of plague forced them to leave the city.
In 1598 the company took an unusual step when disease again threatened the closure of London’s theatres. One summer night they dismantled The Theatre – their home up until that time – and rebuilt it on the other side of the river, thus giving birth to the now famous Globe. In effect we recreate this act, by dismantling our theatre and reconstructing it on a regular basis as we move around the country.
Touring had been the staple of actors’ lives before the creation of permanent theatres. Today it gives The Lord Chamberlain’s Men the opportunity to take theatre to all parts of the country, providing access to Shakespeare for communities who might otherwise have little chance to experience his work.
A Note on the Text
In the Prologue to Romeo and Juliet the Chorus refers to the play as ‘…the two hour traffic of our stage…’
If this were an accurate timing, it would imply that Shakespeare’s actors must have spoken extremely quickly! However, there is some evidence that scripts may have been shortened for touring.
In this tradition The Lord Chamberlain’s Men perform sympathetically edited versions of the text, without losing any of the work’s richness and subtlety.