The Royal Shakespeare Company is recruiting hundreds of nationwide amateur actors to stage A Midsummer Night’s Dream in its most ambitious project to date: Dream2016.
Midsummer’s Day this year saw the RSC announcing the 14 amateur companies from across the UK, who have been working in a unique collaboration with a group of professional actors to celebrate the Bard’s 400th deathdate. The production will involve a total of 687 people to make up the professional and amateur cast, musicians, and school children to play fairies in Titania’s fairy train – a total of 580 fairies, in fact.
Educational resources will be on offer once the show hits stages across the UK, beginning in Stratford-upon-Avon in February. 60- and 30-minute edits of the production will be available to primary, secondary and special schools, with a specially-composed score suitable for all ages and abilities. There will also be teaching resources providing guidance for staging the play, as well as the RSC Dream Team 2016 Playmaking Festival, which can take place in Stratford or with an RSC artist in schools.
Erica Whyman, RSC deputy artistic director, has been working on Dream2016 throughout the year. ‘I’ve always loved touring and care very much about having a proper relationship with regional theatres,’ she said, noting that this is the largest project she and the RSC have carried out to date. ‘No one has ever attempted to bring this all together in a professional production.’
The project seeks to bring forth modernity from Shakespeare’s play, with a setting in late-1940s Britain. ‘It’s about the country coming together after surviving a traumatic time and about the post-war austerity. It fits with the play.’
Owing to the distance between the amateur companies, which cover all nine English regions, Whyman has said that she had a Skype-style technology created to enable rehearsals to take place at the same time. ‘The challenge for me is making sure those regional voices really are in play. I want to get a real sense of these places.’
Among the professional cast will be Ayesha Dharkey as Titania, Sam Redford as Theseus and Lara Riseborough as Helena. Bottom will be played by school teachers from around the country – most of them men, with two women taking the role in Canterbury and Nottingham.
Dates and venues:
- Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, 17 February – 5 March
- Northern Stage, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 16–22 March
- Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, 29 March – 2 April
- Blackpool Grand Theatre, Blackpool, 5–9 April
- Alhambra Theatre, Bradford, 12–16 April
- Marlow Theatre, Canterbury, 19–23 April
- Theatre Royal, Norwich, 26–30 April
- Theatre Royal, Nottingham, 3–7 May
- Hall for Cornwall, Truro, 10–14 May
- Barbican, London, 17–21 May
- New Theatre, Cardiff, 24–28 May
- Grand Opera House, Belfast, 31 May – 4 June
For further information, including tickets, visit www.dream2016.org.uk