THE Garden Players are returning once more to put on one of Shakespeare's masterpieces, to raise more pounds for charities.

This year’s exciting new production is The Merchant of Venice and will be performed in the gardens of Stubbings House, Maidenhead, by kind permission of the current owner Dudley Good.

The Garden Players first performed in a garden in Beaconsfield in 2009 and since then have performed in Bath, and started at the new venue in Maidenhead last year.

This year's play follows the story of Bassanio, a young Venetian of wealthy family, who has squandered all his money and intends to refill his coffers by marrying Portia, heiress to a fabulous fortune.

He persuades his friend, the merchant Antonio, to lend him money to woo Portia in style. Antonio's own money is tied up in ventures, but he borrows 3,000 ducats for three months from the wealthy Jew, Shylock.

The loan comes at no interest, but with the penalty for default set at ‘a pound of flesh’. The three months pass, Antonio’s ships have not returned, and Shylock demands the return of his bond. Meanwhile, Bassanio wins the hand of Portia who, disguised as a lawyer, comes to Antonio’s aid in the ensuing trial.

This year’s production will be produced by Paul Seddon and he has gathered around him a cast of well known local actors, many of whom are stalwarts of The Garden Players, as well as some newcomers- David Bukht taking on the role of Shylock, BFP columnist Colin Baker's daughter, Lucy, taking on the role of Nerissa and Charley Murdoch, who will be playing Shylock's daughter, Jessica.

Since their first production The Garden Players have raised in excess of £48,000 for their charities.

Their aims are to stage high quality productions while maximising their charitable donations and public awareness of the charities being supported.

This year they are supporting Child Bereavement UK and SportsAble.

The Merchant of Venice is on at Stubbings House from June 18 to 21. The lawns will be open for picnics from 5.30pm prior to each performance.

While the performances will be open air, for the first time audiences will be in a stand under cover on raised seating to improve comfort and visibility.

Tickets are £18 per person from 01628 820140 or go to Concessions available.

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