Just about a year ago a huge army of people (including our little Tower Theatre team) from all around the country were involved with one of the most innovative theatre projects ever let loose on an unsuspecting audience, A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A Play For The Nation. I seem to recall writing a little account of it at the time; you may even remember it (if not, click here). Now as a footnote to all that it’s time to see what’s happening one year on.
It’s actually quite difficult to believe that a whole year has elapsed since we found ourselves appearing on the stage of both the Barbican in London and the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford upon Avon as, at the time, it was so all consuming. But it would have been remiss of us to let such a momentous anniversary pass uncommemorated so we duly set about doing some commemoratering (?)
In May we were unable to directly mark the equivalent week of our London run as people who should have known better had cast me as Dogberry in Tower’s production of Much Ado About Nothing. Playing what was essentially Nick Bottom’s second cousin exactly one year on from Dream2016 was, I thought, a nice way to commemorate the event even if the venue and audiences were both somewhat smaller. If I am being honest, it gave me something to focus on rather than get maudlin about the highs which the RSC project had provided but it was also fun in its own right and provided a sense of camaraderie and achievement. Absolutely no disrespect intended to my Dream colleagues but “setting sail” with a new band of players provided a shot in the arm and an uplifting experience. Though Bottom certainly has a lot more to say for himself, getting to grips with the well meaning but often incomprehensible dialogue which Shakespeare gives Dogberry proved a different type of challenge; it was somewhat of a relief that he only appears from Act 3 onwards. What was certain is that skills I had learned through the Dream project came in very handy during the rehearsal process and I was pretty pleased with the end result.
All this meant that celebration had to wait until the following week. The team gathered together in the Barbican, there to meet with our producer at the time Leanne and relive some old memories of what, for a week, became our home from home. This was followed by a meal at director David’s house and a viewing of the Best Bottoms In The Land TV programme which recorded (some) of our exploits. It was particularly poignant watching this especially as it was not something we had managed to do at the time as a group. It also led to several moments of “did I really say that?” but overall the programme provided a very nice memento of our adventure.
The evening finished with us tweeting a short video to our very own and very fondly remembered Puck (Lucy Ellinson). Lucy being Lucy soon tweeted a reply video from backstage at the Donmar Warehouse where she was appearing alongside Lenny Henry in Brecht’s Arturo Ui. As the character of Puck closes A Midsummer Night’s Dream this was a fitting ending to our reunion…but of course we weren’t finished yet.
Several weeks later in mid July we reconvened yet again, this time in Stratford upon Avon the scene of our second short run and where the play had finally closed for good the previous mid July. Actually we were a week out again. Adam’s fault this time as he was busy working at the Wimbledon championships (at least that’s his story). The centrepiece of our day out was a performance at the RST of Titus Andronicus. Somewhat different in nature to Dream, it has to be said, and not an immediately obvious choice for a light hearted outing. However, it turned out to be a superb production and reminded us of why our time working with the RSC had been so fabulous. It was also a treat to gaze in fond remembrance at the auditorium which had meant so much to us during our brief stay there and to see the audience’s obvious enjoyment of Shakespeare’s work. (For a fuller review of the play please click here)
There was only one place to go post show – the Dirty Duck across the road from the theatre. As we walked there Greg Doran (RSC supremo) shot out of the main door to The Swan auditorium. “Hi Greg” we called cheerily; although he returned the greeting with a wave I wasn’t convinced that he remembered us (can’t think why not, after all there were only about 100 of us amateurs involved in the project). The Duck was less busy than we recalled – perhaps for some reason the Titus audience members didn’t fancy the beef and ale pie so strongly recommended on the menu! Anyway – all the more room for us and space for more reminiscing; both David S and Nicky from the Dream’s local Stratford team (The Bear Pit) turned up and it was particularly cheering to see Lindsey who had been our ASM and was now working on a new production of Oscar Wilde’s Salome. More tales of onstage bloodshed ensued; we asked Lindsey if the Wilde and Shakespeare productions shared severed heads.
Sitting on the train on the way back gave me time to check that I hadn’t (as I often thought) imagined it all. Sure enough there we still were preserved for posterity on the RSC website, the Dream2016 website and, of course, in the full blog (click here) which still receives regular visitors from around the globe: there’s even a mention on that most reliable of sources Wikipedia (click here).
And so, with last year’s adventure having been well and truly commemoratered (?), it was time for us to go our separate ways. Unlike other am dram “families” which come together for a brief period and then go off to pastures new and probably never meet up again, I think (hope) that this particular group will continue to enjoy and share the life experience which was RSCDream2016.
What have they been up to?
David (Director) is currently part of a team looking to purchase a new permanent home for the Tower Theatre company. He hopes to do some more directing next year.
Maria (Quince) has been gigging with the band Dutch Courage and is currently in rehearsal to play the lead in Gypsy at the Minack in Cornwall.
Al (Snout) took part in another Shakespearean biggie when he got to perform in the “lost play” Cardenio on the banks of the Thames in Richmond.
Adam (Flute) is busy with preparations for his wedding next year but has not been too busy to appear in Sherlock Holmes and The Accrington Pals and has just started rehearsals as the lead in The Thirty Nine Steps.
Tom (Starveling) has – so far – held good on his promise to retire from the stage but he continues to be a fount of theatrical knowledge and wisdom for us younger folk (ahem!)
Peta (Snug) has taken a well earned break after all that roaring but still made lots of noise playing percussion in The Return Of The Marionettes.
And me? Well, I directed Ayckbourn’s Bedroom Farce back in February and then, as mentioned above, appeared as Dogberry in Much Ado About Nothing. Hopefully there’ll be something new in the pipeline very soon so watch this space.