Lakeside Arts
Part of University of Nottingham
Lakeside Arts

An image of director Martin Berry alongside some donkey ears

 

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM: DIRECTOR'S COMMENTS 

Ahead of our upcoming production with Nottingham Playhouse, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, read what director Martin Berry has to say about this magical outdoor theatre piece. Martin is an experienced theatre and radio director, having directed 36 productions of various scales including work for young people, musicals, pantomimes, and new writing.
 

What made you want to direct A Midsummer Night’s Dream?
Gosh – many reasons. First and foremost, it is enormous fun. I directed a production a few years ago and really enjoyed the experience. It’s also a great play for invention, magic, and mischief – all of which I love to bring to the stage. Live theatre and that shared experience are so vital, and Midsummer Night’s Dream has very many possibilities to thrill, involve and engage the audience. It’s also such a great play to introduce people to theatre I think, and to Shakespeare. We know our audience will be made up of many young people for whom this may be their first experience of theatre and/or Shakespeare and it is a genuine honour to take on that challenge. 
 

What are the challenges of directing such a well-known play? 
You have a choice to make – to steep yourself in the many versions that have gone before – watch the films, dig out archive recordings of famous productions, read all the books. Or you can dodge them all and approach the play as if it had never been done before. I’ve tried both in the past, and this time around I have gone for option B – treat this production with as fresh a set of eyes as possible. (Although having done it before I do already have a fair amount of insight into the play of course). The ‘fresh eyes’ approach feels right for a production with just 4 performers and for children, where we will be deliberately breaking many of the ‘rules’ of theatre. Multi-roling, audience interaction, outdoor setting – in a sense we can come at this with a rather thrilling sense of (respectful) abandon. It is also reassuring to work on a play that has stood the test of time – we are unlikely to break it – though we must ensure we trust the text and treat the story, characters, and language with respect. What that means in practice is working to unearth and understand the play Shakespeare wrote, and then enjoying playing with how we will tell our particular version of that story. 


What are you most excited about in this production? 
Going outdoors with a play set in a forest creates really exciting possibilities I think. I am also really looking forward to exploring what our chosen setting of a music festival might unlock in the characters, relationships, and Shakespeare’s poetry – it’s a fab idea from the mind of our designer Erin Fleming, and allows us to approach the play in a real-world context that still allows for magic, love and chaos. Or perhaps that’s just my experience of music festivals! 
 

How has the context of the modern-day affected your retelling of this Shakespearean classic? 
We certainly plan to avoid references to Covid, politics, or world affairs – I think we have all had enough of that! Bringing Shakespeare to a modern, predominantly young audience is a balance I think – balancing respect for the text, rhythms, and traditions with finding ways to ensure access, modern relevance, and humour that lands with a modern audience. It’s the last point that’s key I think. Some humour is universal across all time – e.g. slapstick and pratfalls. Other humour evolves over time and if we can make a modern audience laugh then there is a good chance we are making the play accessible to them more broadly.
 

Martin is director of the Nottingham Playhouse and Lakeside Arts production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. See it at Lakeside Arts Saturday 25 – Sunday 26 June.

Nottingham Playhouse and Lakeside Arts present

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM
 

Saturday 25 June, 3pm & 6pm
Sunday 26 June, 1pm & 4pm

Suitable for ages 7+

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Donkey ears with the text " a midsummer night's dream by william shakespeare"