A Midsummer Night’s Murder
British summertime would not be complete without the incessant rain and strawberries of Wimbledon, a sunburnt, wasp-stung trip to the seaside, and a picnic while watching your local amateur dramatic society murdering Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ in the park. Only kidding! I think there’s something something about the magic, mayhem and general buffoonery of the play that lends itself to the chaos of haphazard rendition. After all, it’s meant to be fun.
I’ve seen the play many times, wrapped in a blanket in the park as well as at the RSC, but my favourite performance of all was by a bunch of kids and was entirely in Welsh!
Last year, my daughter’s school put on an abridged performance of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ along with shortened versions of ‘Romeo and Juliet‘, ‘The Tempest’, ‘Macbeth’ and ‘Twelfth Night’ by other local schools at Theatre Mwldan in Cardigan. The performance was part of the annual nationwide ‘Shakespeare for Schools’ Festival. The organisation support schools to prepare and perform Shakespeare’s plays in local professional theatres and the children who participate get to work with a proper theatre director. As we live in a Welsh-speaking part of Wales, all of the plays, bar one, were spoken in Welsh. I have been struggling to learn Welsh on and off (mostly off) since we moved here, so I could understand fragments, but it helped enormously that I knew the plays fairly well already.
The standard of professionalism from the children – some as young as eight – was remarkable. Using sensitively abridged scripts allowed the children to engage with Shakespeare – many for the first time – without being overwhelmed, and the opportunity to work with a director and perform in a proper theatre was incredible. My daughter was so enthused by the whole experience that we ended up watching some more Shakespeare plays on Digital Theatre.
I love that such an organisation exists. It’s a great way for children to get exposed quite early on to the beauty of the language of Shakespeare as well as grappling with the monumental questions of what it is to be human that the plays address. Then of course there’s the tremendous opportunity of performing in a proper theatre, with costumes, lighting, stagehands, and an audience, all under the guidance of a professional director – well, that’s just priceless.
Here’s a link to the Shakespeare for Schools website. Check it out, there might be something on near you. http://www.ssf.uk.com/
And here’s a short youtube clip about it here: https://www.youtube.com/user/WatchSSF