Illyria has a deservedly unparalleled reputation for the clarity and authenticity of its Shakespearean style.
Illyria performs each play in the open-air with only a handful of props and no scenery - as almost all Shakespeare's plays were originally conceived. We achieve the seemingly impossible by performing the plays UNCUT with five actors, the number we believe Shakespeare’s own company used when touring the provinces for his plays subtly reveal how this is to be achieved. This combination of artistic integrity, uncompromising refusal to patronise our audience with edited Shakespeare scripts, and financial efficiency has set a standard practised, so far as we know, by no other theatre company.
Illyria's productions are slick, physical and imaginative in execution. They are played with characteristic briskness - Shakespeare was, after all, unequivocal about how long his plays take to perform. Each is inspired by performance techniques of Elizabethan touring troupes such as live music and song, an inclusion of the audience in the proceedings, contemporary references and a robustness of style.
Illyria uses male and female actors because, contrary to popular assumption, there was never a law prohibiting women from the stage. Productions in Court in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries used female as well as male actors (Anne Boleyn herself performed). And for his public performances Shakespeare used all the talent available to him – so Illyria follows suit. Besides, it is unnecessary to ignore half the available talent just to put men in dresses.
Illyria uses only the power of the human voice to perform the plays – never the artificial amplification beloved by so many of our “authentic” colleagues. Among the UK open-air touring theatre companies only Illyria's artistic director has published articles on Shakespearean verse-speaking.
The design of Illyria’s staging has been taken directly from sixteenth century engravings of touring troupes. In the words of Elizabethan scholar Dr Reaveley Gair:
“Illyria’s five actors are the direct heirs of Shakespeare’s wandering players.”