The Shakespeare Institute Players
A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM
by William Shakespeare
Directed by John Langdon, assisted by Karen Nicholls
The Hall of the Shakespeare Institute, Mason Croft, Church Street, Stratford-upon-Avon
14, 15, and 16 March 2013 at 7:30pm – Matinée on Saturday 16 at 2:30pm
Tickets are £8 (£6 concessions) – Advanced bookings on firstname.lastname@example.org
Performances on Saturday 16 are now sold out — please contact us to book tickets for Thursday and Friday.
With a cast comprising postgraduate students of English and Drama at the Shakespeare Institute, and some professional actors, the new production of this much-loved comedy will be an innovative approach to Shakespeare’s text, marrying the lyrical verse to the darker naturalism of the enchanted woods. A stark set featuring an imposing tree frames a production that is underscored by hauntingly beautiful live music, creating an intimate theatrical experience.
We see A Midsummer Night’s Dream as a play about crossing thresholds—both between the various worlds of the immortals and the mortals, but also those between the states of being within the self. As each of the characters works for a kind of transcendence, they also frequently cross the bounds of social convention, on a journey that may lead either to true love or to despair, frustration, or even death.
We see the presence of the fairies as facilitating the opening of the doorways between the various worlds of the play. While our fairies are truly magical beings, they bear little resemblance to the gauzy winged fairies of Victorian romance. Rather, they are nomadic—travellers out of time, perhaps originating in tribes from the far steppes of Asia. Always seeking new and exciting diversions, they embody a kind of old-world romance coupled with a devastating underlying loss of innocence that stems from their own immortality.
Actually, our concept developed from a focus on the idea of the immortals themselves. We tried to imagine what life might be like were one to live forever, or at least for hundreds or thousands of years. We realized that such beings, even had they once been human, would become very different from mortals, with different values, different perceptions, and different ways of understanding the world. Not only would they be likely to become somewhat bored and jaded, but they would also become uncannily accustomed to one another, able to anticipate each others’ actions and reactions in almost any given circumstance. Even our set reflects this, blending elements of the natural world that seem both dead and alive, and natural and contrived.
Our lighting too tends to be darker, reflecting the darkness that might come with knowing the world just a little too well. Puck’s sardonic but often empty jests abound, and the production reflects both ample humor (we hope) and the shadows that often fall beneath the corners of the upturned proverbial mouth.
The lovers and the craftsmen, whether vaguely aware of the immortals or totally oblivious to them, find themselves drawn into the nexus of magic that the immortals bring briefly into the mortal world. The mortals are deeply affected by the travelers’ proximity, and their uneasiness with the resolution of their own challenges by the end of the play marks how difficult it is for them to reconcile that resolution deep within themselves. This particular production, for all its comedy, reflects the deeply uneasy resolution that we see lying within the text itself–a resolution where Pyramus and Thisbe become objects of mock sacrifice so that A Midsummer Night’s Dream may ultimately end in the kind of ordered peace orchestrated by Oberon at the end of the play. We hope the audience will enjoy it, but we also hope that they will think about it as they wend their way home from the theatre perhaps in the same way that they might consider what Oberon calls ‘the fierce vexations of a dream’.
About the Shakespeare Institute Players
The Shakespeare Institute Players is the dramatic society of the Shakespeare Institute of the University of Birmingham, a world-class academic institution for the study of Shakespeare and English Renaissance drama, founded by the theatre historian Allardyce Nicholl in 1951. Under the leadership of its new director, the eminent Shakespearian scholar Michael Dobson, the Shakespeare Institute has entered a new era, offering from next year an innovative postgraduate programme in Shakespeare and Creativity in collaboration with the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and the Royal Shakespeare Company. All students at the Institute are automatically members of the Shakespeare Institute Players—as Professor Dobson has often remarked, it is the only institution in the world in which being part of the resident dramatic society is not a matter of choice.
The Players’ first recorded performance was given in February 1953 at the Hall of Mason Croft, when the original company performed A Yorkshire Tragedy, now attributed to Thomas Middleton. To celebrate the 60th anniversary of the first production, the SI Players will be producing the play again; the performances will take place on 2, 3, and 4 May 2013, at 8pm, with a matinee on Saturday 4 at 3pm. Tickets are already on sale.
You can follow them on Twitter: @SI_Players