Six amateur actors from Hucknall have been cast in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s forthcoming production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Part of the Lovelace Theatre Group, they will play the roles of the ‘Mechanicals’ when the production visits the Theatre Royal Nottingham between Tuesday 3 and Saturday 7 May 2016.
Some of Shakespeare’s best loved characters, the ‘Mechanicals’ (including the iconic role of Bottom the Weaver) are an under-prepared, yet loveable bunch of craftsmen and women who put themselves forward to entertain royalty at the end of the play. In Nottingham the roles will be played by:
Daniel Knight (Flute, the Bellows Mender); Linda Mayes (Quince, the Carpenter); James McBride (Snug, the Joiner); Tom Morley (Starveling, the Tailor); Becky Morris (Bottom, the Weaver); Jennifer White (Snout, the Tinker).
The Lovelace Theatre Group is based at the John Godber Centre in Hucknall, Nottinghamshire. The cast of actors from the group who will be performing in A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A Play for the Nation are from all walks of life, including a learning disability support worker, a contracts manager, a secondary school creative arts manager, a clinical trial co-ordinator, a student and a PA.
The group will perform alongside a cast of 18 professional actors, and a professional creative team, led by RSC Deputy Artistic Director, Erica Whyman. Initially the amateur actors will rehearse in Nottingham, with their own amateur director, Pat Richards, also of Lovelace Theatre Group. They will then rehearse with the RSC team from January 2016. Born and bred in Hucknall, Pat has been with the Lovelace Theatre Group since the 1960s and has been acting for 50 years.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A Play for the Nation will visit 12 theatres in each region and nation of the UK between 17 February and 4 June 2016, and will involve 14 different amateur theatre companies. In each theatre a different local amateur theatre company will play the Mechanicals*, and local school children will take part as Titania’s fairy train.
The production opens in Stratford-upon-Avon in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in February 2016. After the UK tour, it will return to Stratford-upon-Avon in June 2016, and each of the 14 amateur companies, including Lovelace Theatre Group, will reprise their roles on the Royal Shakespeare Theatre stage.
Erica Whyman, RSC Deputy Artistic Director, and director of A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A Play for the Nation, said:
“I am absolutely thrilled to be directing A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A Play For the Nation, as part of the RSC’s plans to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death in 2016. The experience of casting our amateur actors all around the UK has been inspiring and humbling. I have met so many wonderful people: talented, dedicated and brave. The standard has been tremendous, and the wonderful diversity of men and women who will be taking on these major roles is very exciting, and perhaps most importantly, they have really made us laugh! In every single region the cast we have chosen has a distinctive voice and a strong sense of connection to the place where they will perform. I think it will be a real treat for audiences everywhere to see Shakespeare’s most magical play with a properly local flavour.”
Talking specifically of Lovelace Theatre Group, Erica added: “Lovelace Theatre Group are a delightful group. Quite recently formed, they have a raw talent that we couldn’t resist. Becky is one of only two women playing Bottom around the UK. She impressed us with her mischievous sense of playfulness; she’s going to be very funny. The group performed with a lovely simplicity which gets to the heart of Shakespeare’s play.”
Pat Richards, who will be directing the Lovelace Theatre Group, said: “The Lovelace Theatre is thrilled and delighted that it was chosen by RSC! We are ecstatic at what we have achieved and look forward to working with all at the RSC. It is also very good for all at The Lovelace Theatre Hucknall who started it all.”
The BBC will be capturing all of the action in ‘The Best Bottoms In the Land’ (Title TBC), which will follow the RSC’s journey as they put on the production with both amateur and professional actors during the tour.
Overseen by BBC Birmingham, nine regional programmes will be produced by the BBC English Regions teams. The 30 minute documentaries will show the pressures and pitfalls of such a project, culminating in the opening night of each region’s local performance.
‘The Best Bottoms in the Land’ will follow individual stories from around the country and will air in spring 2016 on BBC One.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A Play for the Nation is a co-production between the Royal Shakespeare Company and amateur theatre companies across the UK. This is an arrangement developed between the RSC and Equity.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A Play for the Nation is supported by Arts Council England Cross-Border Touring Fund.