HADDS had been talking about the possibility of doing a play in a variety of outdoor locations during the day. The play needed to quite short so as not to conflict with the other activities and had to have no scenery and be reasonably apt for a summer fete. So we turned to the Bard for our production. Although not technically a HADDS production since one of the players isn't a member, it had a number of HADDS people involved.
Towards the end of A Midsummer Night's Dream there is a short interlude performed by a series of clowns. It is a potted love story that goes wrong with the two main protagonists ending up dead after a horrible confusion. And like most Shakespeare it is full of the same pseudo-nonsense language required to tell a story in iambic pentameter.
It tells of two lovers Pyramus and Thisbe who are separated from each other by a wall (played by an actor). Through a chink in the wall, they arrange to meet by Old Ninny's Tomb. Thisbe arrives first and is scared off by a lion but not before having part of her mantle ripped by the vile beast. When Pyramus arrives he sees the mantle which is stained with blood from the lion's previous kill and believes it to be his love.
Struck down with grief, he kills himself. When Thisbe works up enough courage to return she sees her love lying dead and then promptly kills herself also. Just think with mobile phones and good counselling it would never have happened at all!
Other characters are the aforementioned Wall and Lion plus a man who plays Moonshine carrying a lantern, thorn bush and leading a dog. Quite why he needs the latter two items is never fully explained. The whole interlude is introduced by a more sensibly dressed chap as the prologue.
I use the term sensibly dressed since in our version, only the Prologue played by Chris was dressed in anything resembling a costume. Rod as Wall was a large cardboard box, Ken as the Lion had a rat's costume with a furry tail and fake mane and Moonshine (played by Paul) dog was a puppet ('proper' productions usually have a real dog). Judy as Thisbe had a length of white cloth folded in two with a neck hole cut and trimmed with a £3 sparkly top from a charity shop. It looked rather Egyptian in reality and was finished off with a long blonde wig that Judy said made here look like an Abba tribute act!.
I was dressed in a five yards of yellow material and a curly wig. Still, I haven't descended to the level of using an old pair of curtains, although that was an option. I though it was sweet of an old dear who said to me that she thought it was my real hair when she saw it from a distance. I hadn't the heart to say "listen, if I had hair like that then I'd still shave it all off!"
With just two weeks to learn and two rehearsals (Judy had just one) it's quite a good thing that the whole interlude lasts for only four pages. The bulk of the dialogue is spoken by Pyramus and Thisbe so Judy and I could sit down and learn our parts together which, as with Look No Hans, was a definite benefit.
Production wise, we played four different locations on our "tour". Outside the Dovecote, in Peter and Ann Nelson's garden, by the side of the street and near the lychgate of the church. Each location brought its own peculiarities and differences from what we are all used to. Most notably how close you are to the audience, particularly without the protection of a raised stage. For one I had to have a rug placed down onto which I could die without getting dirty while another we had to compete with a brass band playing Jesus Christ Superstar!
Acting wise, it's difficult to describe people's particular characters when some of the parts have but a few lines to learn. Apart from Pyramus and Thisbe, only the Prologue has any sort of substantial part. Rod more or less knew his lines, Ken had his lines taped to his paws, Chris knew them for the first performance then reverted to cards for the next four and Paul just had to describe what he was carrying.
Judy and I had great fun, wandering around the "set", shouting loudly and generally hopelessly overacting. We also spent the whole of the afternoon wandering around the village dressed in costume getting funny looks from people who hadn't seen us and smiles from those who had. As an aside, it wasn't until the middle of the afternoon that I realised that I was walking around carrying a dangerous weapon. Although the edge of the three foot sword that I was using wasn't sharp, it had a point that would easily pierce skin and I'm sure I could have run someone through with only a small amount of force. After I realised this, I left it with the other costume bits, especially as we had passed at least two policemen. Also, contrary to what the photographs show, I did not spend the majority of the performance lying on my back!
After the final performance of our triumphal four location tour during the fete, a nice woman in a very bright outfit asked us if we were available to perform the same thing over as part of the entertainments for her wedding blessing that was taking place in the garden of her house. Being flushed with success and still full of adrenaline we all said yes. Money was not involved but drinks and canopes were.
So after what seemed an age since we'd last done it and having only a single run through as a rehearsal, we found ourselves getting changed in the house ready to play our part in bringing to a close an afternoon of medieval themed attractions including the ceremony itself, madrigals and acoustic guitar work.
What we also found was an appreciative audience who had just had enough of the free wine to make them into the fun we were to give them but not too much that they felt the need to heckle. Every actor got a cheer, Judy and I got aahhs when we collapsed in a heap together at the end of the play.
So that is probably it for our first foray into Shakespeare as I can't see another outing this year. I'm tentatively planning to do a mummers play for the fete next year. Just about 10-15 minutes with silly costumes and lots of shouting. We'll see.