August 17, 2009, by Peter Kirwan
Writing about web page http://www.rosetheatrekingston.org/whats-on/dream
The Rose have made an early start advertising what is, no doubt, going to be the first sure-fire hot sell of 2010. Judi Dench is starring as Titania in their new production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, directed by Peter Hall.
Dream is a heavily ensemble drama. If there’s a leading role, it’s arguably Puck (who drives the action forward) or Bottom (the most lines, and the most iconic moments). So I’m intrigued to see what putting a big name into the mix is going to do to the balance of the play. Is Titania, indeed, going to become the most important character in the play? The press release suggests that they will be exploring the role as a "portrait" of Elizabeth I, which sounds both interesting and alarming in the same breath: will this be of interest, or relevance, to a contemporary audience? How much straining does the play require in order to emphasise this role in that way? And, most importantly, will the rest of the play be subsumed by this conceit?
My experience of Peter Hall’s direction in the last few years amounts to one stinker and one intelligent, if a little dull, production. My experience of Judi Dench, on the other hand, amounts to a single show, Merry Wives: The Musical, in which as Mistress Quickly she coincidentally donned an Elizabeth I costume in deliberate pastiche of her Oscar-winning turn in Shakespeare in Love. For her to be turning another non-leading role into an Elizabeth I figure seems a little peculiar!
Anyway, it’s a promising production of a perennial favourite, with a big-name director and star actor on the billboards. It’ll be a deserved sell-out for the Rose long before it opens. I’m looking forward to it, and just hope it fulfills its promise.
It’s impossible to think about this plan without taking account of the Rose Kingston’s considerable financial problems and to wonder whether this is more “bums on seats” than a bold creative move.
The tickets are selling well; but if the audience is just there to see her, will the production turn into one of those celebrity cash-ins where the audience switches off when the star turn isn’t visible and they have no one famous to gawp at?
Looks like pit cushions will be the best option!