The Cotswold Arcadians stage large-scale open air Shakespearean theatre productions each summer
Our 2016 production is Shakespeare's
A Midsummer Night's Dream
18 – 23 July, 2016
The fantastical world of A Midsummer Night’s Dream invites us to let our imaginations run riot. This year’s spectacular production of one of Shakespeare’s best-loved comedies does just that, taking us to the grounds of Theseus’ estate, where the mortal and immortal worlds collide. By day a disciplined domain, bound by convention and the established order, when mortal backs are turned the immortals make free – and how! Fascinated by the mortals and their antics, there is always at least one fairy keeping an eye on what is going on, for this is their place, and they were here first.
Exotic, colourful, funny and moving, this magical production is inspired by Shakespeare’s changeling child – “A lovely boy, stolen from an Indian king” - and by Hatherop’s own fascinating history.
Come and picnic and then enjoy one of Shakespeare’s best-loved plays in the ‘spiced air’ of a summer evening in Gloucestershire.
It is our great fortune to be directed by Sue this year.
This is Sue’s second production for the Cotswold Arcadians following her Macbeth in 2011, which was then part of the RSC Open Stages showcase the following year. She trained at Central School of Speech and Drama and has been acting and directing since the early 1970s. In a different but related venture, she also runs the murder mystery company, Smoke & Mirrors - www.hauntedmysteryweekend.co.uk
Sue has ‘hung up her boots’ as an actor (almost – just a bit of ‘murdering’!) to concentrate on directing. She has worked with a range of companies and credits include material from to Orton to Aristophanes, from The Beggar’s Opera to Peter Pan, from new writing to Shakespeare and from one-man shows to productions of The Crucible and Cyrano de Bergerac for Oxford Theatre Guild at the Oxford Playhouse.
Somebody said to me recently ‘Oh you’re doing The Dream, well that’s nice and easy’. When I asked (somewhat huffily) what they meant they replied ‘Well it’s been done lots before…’ And that of course, is the difficulty.
So many people have preconceived ideas about the play and that can be a problem. Indeed it’s a problem which has led directors and writers over the years to change and adapt The Dream in innumerable ways, ranging from the ingenious and magical to the frankly gratuitous. The fantastical world of A Midsummer Night’s Dream invites us to let our imaginations run riot.
I feel strongly that it is also important to root the production in Shakespeare’s wonderful text. One of the great joys, and one which marks him out from his contemporaries, is his capacity to create rounded, believable characters. In The Dream we meet characters who are complete and credible in the context of their world, but whose world has, for one reason or another, been turned upside down.
So what will I do with The Dream this time?
I’m putting the play in a Raj-inspired setting in about 1910. The inspiration for this is two-fold.
At the start of the play Helena is leaving and comes to say goodbye. We don’t know where or why she’s leaving but this, and the relationships with their parents suggest that the lovers are somehow displaced – perhaps more at home at boarding school in England or in the company of their Ayah than with their parents.
A second source of inspiration is the changeling child, "A lovely boy, stolen from an Indian king" who is such an important plot device, and Titania’s wonderful description of time spent with his mother:
His mother was a votaress of my order:
And, in the spiced Indian air, by night,
Full often hath she gossip'd by my side…
The period and setting offer a very proscribed social background from which the mortals can come, just ripe for being upset by Puck’s machinations! Theseus is an authority figure who, at the start of the play, is bound by convention and social/political expectations. The other mortals are similarly accepting of the established order and within this the mechanicals also know their place. They are honest, hardworking and humble but they are credible characters, not buffoons.
The whole play will be set in the grounds of Theseus’ estate, with which the immortals make free when they can – and they do! The ‘forest’ is not a separate world – it’s a place where the power changes hands at different times. Exotic, colourful, Indian-inspired, they provide the magic. Fascinated by the mortals and their antics, there will always be at least one of them keeping an eye on what is going on.
Can you resist the lure of one of the best-loved plays in English literature in the ‘spiced air’ of a summer evening in Gloucestershire?
— Sue Baxter, Director