Cambridge Shakespeare Festival: Holly takes on Puck whatever the weather
The Cambridge Shakespeare Festival is half way through its run and former Comberton Village College student Holly Masters is enjoying the chance to take part in something that has become a local tradition.
The festival is now in its 34th year – in spite of a year off in 2020 during the peak of the pandemic – and is staging A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the gardens of King’s College.
Holly, 23, who plays Puck, said: “I was delighted to get this role because I’m local and I have grown up watching the festival.
“There isn’t really a main character in A Midsummer Night’s Dream but Puck has such an influence over the events in the play, so that makes it an important part, and I’m having such a brilliant time doing it because there’s lots of interaction with the audience.”
Those coming to the plays are encouraged to bring a picnic to enjoy before the show starts.
“It can be quite funny when you hear Champagne corks popping when you’re in the middle of a scene,” admits Holly. “But I love the atmosphere and the settings are absolutely stunning, especially in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, because we’re in front of this beautiful pergola in King’s College gardens. It looks like a forest, it’s gorgeous.
“The outdoor setting works so well for Shakespeare plays. And the costumes are stunning. We have a huge costume store where they get costumes from the likes of the Royal Shakespeare Company, and ballet companies as well so they’re all beautiful, proper Elizabethan costumes.”
Holly trained in musical theatre after leaving school and has recently starred as Dorothy in an outdoor immersive version of the Wizard of Oz in a country park in Nottingham.
She says: “I’m so glad to be working again, I have really missed performing. And being in both The Merry Wives of Windsor and A Midsummer Night’s Dream in this festival has given me a real love of Shakespeare.
“I definitely want to do more. The only hazard is sometimes the weather doesn’t play along when a production is set outdoors.
“A few days ago, when I was performing in the Merry Wives of Windsor, it absolutely chucked it down five minutes before the end.
“We were getting absolutely soaked on stage. But the audience, the audience stayed, and if they want to stay we will carry on with the show. Luckily it was only the last five minutes. It was quite funny.”
Is there any situation in which they would give up? “If there’s lightning or if the ground is flooded and it would be dangerous for us to perform, then we would say no. But most of the time if the audience is willing to stay then we do the show,” says Holly.
“We have generally been lucky enough to avoid the rain except for the odd shower. Yesterday, it rained really heavily just before we went on but it had settled down by the time we started.
“If you want the magic of being outside sometimes you have to take a risk with the weather!”
The festival runs until August 28. Visit cambridgeshakespeare.com.