There is a Play…
Indeed, there was, but, unlike the Mechanicals’ production of Pyramus and Thisbe, the 2021 production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Lockdown was superbly well directed, filmed and acted. It was, as always, a real pleasure to take part in an Open Air Shakespeare production. I particularly liked the imaginative use of different settings in the two gardens, the ‘socially distanced’ interactions between Demetrius and Lysander and the way the use of the camera added to the fun of the Mechanicals’ play.
It was, of course, a very different experience to previous years’ productions; no first night to work towards, no audience to interact with, no continuity. I thought I knew this play fairly well, but couldn’t always work out which bit went where until the final rehearsal.
I was originally cast as one of the Mechanicals but the number in the merry band was reduced to comply with the then current Covid regulations, so I was offered the part of Egeus instead. In real life I do my best to be a reasonable sort of chap (although I don’t always succeed) so it was interesting to play a thoroughly unpleasant character.
Firstly, he’s very angry with his daughter because she’s fallen in love with a man he doesn’t approve of, so angry that he demands to have her executed (Shock! Horror! Shame! Shame!). Then he sneers at the sincere, but admittedly comic, efforts of a bunch of working class people to stage a play and then comprehensively trashes their performance (Boo! Hiss!).
Like most people, even the best of us, I definitely have a dark side to my nature. Even Saint Paul wrote: ‘the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing.’ So it was rather fun to let my dark side out of its cage, without hurting anyone. To quote George Orwell, it was ‘a harmless rebellion against virtue.’ Oops, I’m beginning to sound like ‘Thought for the Day.’
So, what part would I like next? Hamlet’s murderous Uncle Claudius? Othello’s evil nemesis Iago? Actually, no, I’m not dropping hints to future directors, I wouldn’t like either of these roles. There would be too many lines to learn.