After working on Just Add Water’s production of Bobby at the Lowry, I have spent the last month working with Physical Folk on a community production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Tom Barry and I co founded Physical Folk while backpacking in New Zealand. Whilst volunteering at Napier Prison, a historical tourist destination, we were asked to develop packages and workshops for schools to engage with. We worked on some short historical films about some of the characters that would have spent time in the prison. We had a lot of fun organising fright night parties for teenagers and workshops for children from 4 to 12. Baking prison food, taking down fingerprints and asking them to spot the ghosts. We started to think about theatre and workshops as a tool for engaging communities.
We have spent the last year developing work in Cheshire, working out what an audience that the professional theatre circuit rarely hits wants to see. We dabbled in both creating pieces for the community to watch and workshops and performances for the community to take part in. We’ve found wonderful support from loyal and enthusiastic members of the local community and now we arrive at a 70s inspired ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream has a cast of 15 diverse actors from the community in and around Northwich. The cast age range is 15-69 and they are as different from each other in character and experiences as Mickey Mouse and Germaine Greer. They have worked hard, taken risks and met challenges head on. They have put in hours of rehearsals, met up independently to learn lines, supported each other, created a safe place for everyone to step outside of their comforts zones and created something that they should all be incredibly proud of.
My role in this production has been the producer, and as someone had to step away from the experience, acting in it too. It’s an unusual place to be in and my roles flit from objectivity to total immersion and its been a fun but tough challenge. I have enjoyed seeing the growth in confidence of the cast as well as seeing the flexibility and quick thinking of the crew.
The Production team has worked hard to create a play that really allows the performers to be showcased. Helen Ashbrook Billinge has constantly been sketching and adapting the stage to compromise on what we could beg, borrow and practically steal and kept watch of the actors use of space to create a delightful set. Natalie Fern has turned costumes around quickly, creating a very wide array of costumes some made by her own hand and others from the local Oxfam in Northwich. Ashley Turner has written beautiful music to fit right in with the 70s folks vibe, performed with many other tracks from the 70s by John and Ailsa Booth throughout the play. Tom Barry has worked hard and created a piece that is both understandable and accessible to both the cast and the audience alike.
Whoever said community was dead should come and see it alive and at work in this play. What a community it is! This community will have you laughing till you cry and stamping your feet as they take you on an incredible journey through Love. In this small theatre – Davenham Players’ Theatre, you will be swept away into an incredibly funny reality that a whole community of people have created. Winston Churchill said ‘ Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.’ The company of A Midsummer Night’s Dream have proved this in every decision that they have made both independently and collectively.
Physical Folk’s ‘ A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ is on at Davenham Players’ Theatre, Davenham, Northwich, Cheshire from 22nd May – 25th May 2013 at 7.30pm. Tickets are £8/7 and are available via http://www.danarts.org or 0161 784442.