I was thrilled to get the part of Demetrius (one of the four lovers) in A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Lockdown – and very surprised, as I’d originally auditioned for a role as one of the mechanicals. When Helen (our wonderful director) phoned to offer me Demetrius I was momentarily hesitant. Could I, as a middle-aged woman, play the part of someone Oberon describes as a ‘disdainful youth’ (and remember my lines?)
After that initial moment of hesitation I leapt at the chance, however. Demetrius is not a very pleasant character; he begins by dumping Helena for Hermia and is then horrible to Helena when she follows him into the forest. However, his character undergoes an interesting developmental arc in the play. After being initially angry and disdainful, he then makes a fool of himself fighting over Helena with Lysander, after they are both enchanted into falling in love with her.
Then in the lovers’ final scene, Demetrius becomes much humbler, declaring his undying love for Helena (and also helpfully recapping the tangled love stories for the sake of anyone who is still confused!) This change over time, plus the chance to fight Lysander with a large stick, convinced me that Demetrius would be a great part to play.
I wasn’t wrong. Rehearsals with the other lovers (Max as Lysander, Sara as Hermia and Katie as Helena) were great; they are brilliant actors and I learnt a huge amount from them and our wonderful directors, Helen and Clare. We bounced ideas for scenes, props and costumes off each other. Eagle-eyed viewers of the film will hopefully notice Lysander’s cool and casual approach to running away into the forest (packing only his shades and a blanket), while fussy Demetrius felt the need to take an entire backpack and sleeping bag. (The sleeping bag was actually a good idea, as I was able to huddle up in it at the especially cold rehearsals in April).
Max and I also used our sticks in various different ways; as walking sticks, weapons, and poking devices; I felt quite bereft when we had to give them back to Helen at the end of filming. The highlights of the whole experience for me were the camaraderie of our group; finally getting the hang of 3.2, the complicated lovers’ argument scene (which took more hours of rehearsal than all our other scenes put together); and the full-cast dress rehearsal, at which we finally got to see what brilliant things the fairies and mechanicals were up to. Being involved in the film will certainly be my best memory of lockdown.