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Unsuspecting London commuters treated to Shakespeare and improv comedy

Hundreds of unsuspecting commuters that headed into Blackfriars Thursday found themselves entertained by acts of Shakespearian comedy being performed live on trains on the Thameslink route.

Coined ‘entertrainment’, the activity, which has been organised by Network Rail and is taking place in train carriages running into and out of Blackfriars, will see passengers treated to short acts from the Shakespeare play Two Gentleman of Verona.

It is being performed by the award winning Two Gents Productions, as part of a collaboration between Network Rail, First Capital Connect and Shakespeare’s Globe to mark the opening of Blackfriars South Station, the first new station to span the Thames.

In what will be the first play to take place on a train, each scene will last for an average of 2-4 minutes. The scenes have been specially adapted from their forthcoming shows at the Globe to Globe Festival to fit between the train station stops along the Thameslink route. In a twist likely to further bemuse commuters, the scenes are to be acted out in a combination of Shona and English by the London based duo.

Thousands of passengers expected to travel into Blackfriars, hundreds of commuters are set to be kept entertained on their train journeys.


Laurence Whitbourn, Network Rail project director, Blackfriars, comments, “The opening of the South Station has made Blackfriars a cultural gateway bringing people from Brighton to Bedford to within easy reach of some of the very best culture that London has to offer. We wanted to make the daily grind of the commute a bit more fun and demonstrate the kind of entertainment that is available along the length of South Bank.”

Those commuters alighting at Blackfriars South platform were set for a further surprise, when they were serenaded by hip hop comedy duo, Abandoman, performing under the guise of First Capital Connect station staff. The award winning comedians are currently performing at the Udderbelly Festival, a short distance from the station itself and will be greeting unsuspecting passengers with impromptu Shakespeare-inspired and improvised rap.

Neil Constable, Chief Executive of Shakespeare’s Globe, comments: “We are delighted to be working with Network Rail to raise the profile of Blackfriars South Station and the quick and easy access it offers to Bankside’s cultural heart. We look forward to welcoming more and more people to Shakespeare’s Globe, and especially to our ground-breaking Globe to Globe Festival which begins at the weekend.”

Alan Baker, CEO, The South Bank, comments: “With more culture per square foot than any other area of London it’s fantastic that there is now such a direct transport link to the South Bank and its surrounding institutions. Next Monday Shakespeare would have celebrated his 448th birthday so these performances are a fitting tribute to a man who found his feet performing within the vicinity of Blackfriars and who’s legacy has continued to keep millions of people entertained since.”

First Capital Connect’s station manager at Blackfriars Emma Newman said: “Blackfriars used to be very much a commuter station, for people who work in the City. The new south entrance has transformed the whole feel of the place, making it a much busier, livelier station in the evenings and on weekends. I’m certainly looking forward to exploring the South Bank after work.”

Blackfriars has been completely rebuilt by Network Rail to make way for longer trains and more frequent services on the Thameslink route from Bedford to Brighton, through central London. Over 150,000 passengers are expected to use Blackfriars South Station during summer 2012.

Brighton resident and theatre lover, Charlotte Frost, 24, comments: “I stopped to check my train time when station staff approached me asking me if I needed help. I didn’t realise it was Abandoman – they improvised a brilliant song for me on the spot.