Rough Magic’s Lynne Parker talks about the seduction of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and the company’s new ensemble cast who will perform this ageless comedy at the magical Castle Yard, Kilkenny as part of Kilkenny Arts Festival 2018:

In August we will bring our open-air production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare’s stunning excursion into the spirit world, to the Castle Yard for the Kilkenny Arts Festival.

I was seduced by the beauty of the language at a very early age, and when I directed a production as a student I found so much more – the comedy, the insight into passion and jealously, the darkness, the melodrama, the glorious energy of the action. This is a play that audiences love, partly because the characters are so iconic and at the same time so completely recognisable in ourselves – we’ve all been fools in love and we’ve all been a bit pompous and petty and self-absorbed… And yet these characters are immensely likeable, attractive people – whether they are spirits or mortals.

Director Lynne Parker

The acoustic of the Castle Yard is excellent; so much of the time the actors will speak unamplified, but sometimes, when the moment reqires a very nuanced delivery, I’d like to use amplification and sound desighn, so that an actor can speak quietly, as if the voice is subliminal; the idea is to allow the language its full dynamic range, from a whisper to a roar. We also want to stage it in a way that really uses the space in the round and doesn’t in any way attempt to create indoor theatre conditions. We went down to Kilkenny recently to watch the effect of the fading light in the space – for much of the show it’s that wonderful, blue, twilight state, the ‘witching hour’ which is half-in half-out of light. Really magical.

One of the ideas we’re playing with is the real magic of electricity, from static charge to thunderstorms. Titiania’s great speech gives us the direct link to our own concerns – the upheaval of the natural world that we have so recklessly endangered. Our apporach is that in this topsy turvy world the weather is as unpredictable as the action of the play. So climate change, which she describes, is one theme that needs no updating.

The cast of Rough Magic's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream

Equally the crazy headwreck that is adolescent love, which speaks as vividly today as it did when Shakespeare experienced it himself. But all plays exist in the present – so the trick is to make the audience feel that the people we are watching are as real as ourselves, and that their situation – however bizarre or absurd or unlikely – is one we can imagine finding ourselves in, right here, right now.

Rough Magic started as an ensemble of seven, so in many ways this is a return to our original structure. This year we have some of the most exciting young talents on the current scene, who will be working as a unit for nearly five months over two shows (the second is a new version of A Portrait of The Artist As a Young Man, which tours Ireland up until November). And we also have an astonishing design team who will help us create the world of the play – both plays, in fact.

Playwright Arthur Riordan, Lynne Parker and director Ronan Phelan

We want our audiences to join us in this adventure. They’ll have a great night out, they’ll have new ideas and new people to play with - they’ll have a lot of fun. They should expect the unexpected.

Rough Magic’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream runs at Kilkenny Arts Festival 2018 from August 8 – 18, at the Castle Yard - more info here.