For the past year I have been completely immersed in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Working with school children who are performing as Titania’s Fairy Train has wonderfully (and ironically) taken me right back to where my love for Shakespeare first began: performing myself as one of Titania’s Fairy Train in a school production of the Dream. As for many, the Dream is one of my favourite Shakespeare plays. It’s one of magic and mischief, of love and conflict, of confusion and reconciliation.
I still remember to this day the feeling of pride, perched on top of the hanging bars in the school hall in my fairy, combat-inspired attire whilst the audience entered, waiting for the performance to start. I was so excited about being involved in this magical story that when my Dad came over to speak to me just before the house lights went down I replied in a hushed (rather annoyed) tone: “Dad! You can’t speak to me. I’m in character!” I was already in the world of the fairies. I was already moving “over park, over pale” and “thorough flood, thorough fire” (act two, scene one). It is why I believe the Dream is so accessible for children. Their imaginations can transport them to a place where spirits and hobgoblins do exist, where fairies can “put a girdle round the earth in forty minutes” (act two, scene one) and where magical things can happen. I was certainly transported there when I was waiting for my first big performance to start.
Unfortunately, the word “fairy” tends to be associated with characters born from contemporary cartoons and storybooks, and not the sort of creatures that Shakespeare was intending for his play.