The RSC Dream Project

On Midsummer’s Day 2015, the Royal Shakespeare Company announced the 14 amateur theatre groups who will play the Mechanicals alongside a company of professional actors in the national tour of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Led by Deputy Artistic Director Erica Whyman, A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A Play for the Nation saw the RSC working with 13 partner theatres, 84 amateur performers and 580 schoolchildren, alongside 18 professional actors and the creative team for a major tour of A Midsummer's Night's Dream. This national celebration of Shakespeare visited each region and nation of the UK. In each area local amateur theatre companies played the Mechanicals with Titania’s fairy train played by local schoolchildren. 

WEST MIDLANDS: The Nonentities from Kidderminster and The Bear Pit from Stratford-upon-Avon
NORTH EAST: The Castle Players from County Durham and The People’s Theatre from Newcastle
SCOTLAND: The Citizens Dream Players from Glasgow
NORTH WEST: Poulton Drama from Blackpool
YORKSHIRE: Leeds Arts Centre from Leeds, performing in Bradford
SOUTH EAST: The Canterbury Players from Canterbury
EAST OF ENGLAND: The Common Lot from Norfolk
EAST MIDLANDS: Lovelace Theatre Group from Hucknall, performing in Nottingham
SOUTH WEST: Carnon Downs Drama Group from Truro
LONDON: Tower Theatre from East London
WALES: Everyman Theatre from Cardiff
NORTHERN IRELAND: Belvoir Players from Belfast

The amateurs were cast from all walks of life. In Glasgow the Bottom owns an estate agency and Snug is a former policeman. The Newcastle Bottom, from County Durham, is a pub landlord. The Canterbury Bottom completed the London marathon last year. A local primary school principal plays Snout in Belfast, and Snug is a painter and decorator. Bottom is a teacher and rugby player in Truro, Snug’s a caretaker and Starveling is a council officer in waste management. The Cardiff Flute works for the railway and Snout works in a patisserie.  In the Midlands, Flute is the vice-captain of a local rugby club and Quince is an ex-army officer. In Norwich an IT trainer will play Flute with a customer support worker playing Bottom. And in London, Snug is a private hire driver and Quince a GP – just a flavour of some of the people who are now set to perform on both their local theatre’s main stage and at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.

Erica Whyman, RSC Deputy Artistic Director, and director of A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A Play for the Nation, said:
‘It has been a thrill and a privilege to meet so many talented and dedicated amateur actors from all over the United Kingdom.  We have cast people from all kinds of backgrounds, with a wonderful range of voices, shapes and sizes, but every single one of them has already demonstrated tremendous courage, skill and hard work to have survived the audition process and be selected to star in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.   And they have done all this whilst holding down a huge range of demanding jobs in the daytime. These first steps in creating a true “Play for a Nation” have been inspiring, humbling and very refreshing.  Theatre is alive and well and practised with infectious enthusiasm and impressive talent right across the country, and Shakespeare’s magical comedy has proved to be a very affectionate and fitting way to celebrate amateur actors everywhere.’

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 

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Photography Credit: Topher McGrillis