Sherine El-Sayed talks to the team behind Student Action’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Rebecca Chalk and Charlie Kirkbride have collaborated to present an alfresco performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the name of Student Action. The idea was conceived by Chalk, Derwent JCRC Representative for Student Action, who called Kirkbride and told her, “I want to put on a play, and I think it should be Shakespeare.” The two put forth their proposal to direct a performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a Shakespearian comedy “we think most people are familiar with”, to Student Action during the Easter holidays.
It was approved in Week Two of this current summer term. Thus, the agenda was set: Chalk and Kirkbride had three and a half weeks “from audition to performance” to assemble a cast, direct the play, and invite an audience of schoolchildren aged from 7-13 years old, as well as the elderly residents of Lamel Beeches exclusively to their matinee performance. The guests are from organisations Student Action support through volunteer schemes and projects.
Mixing young and old in the make-up of the audience reflects how members of the cast are somewhat mismatched also. Indeed, Kirkbride laughs about how Oberon is played by a female actress, Sarah Waite, and is in fact noticeably shorter than the “sexy Austrian” Katharina Auersperg, who plays Titania. The production boasts a 24 person cast, who collectively represent every college at the University, and various backgrounds: “English is the second language of two of our main characters, and we have an American Puck!” Furthermore, many of the cast have no previous acting experience at all.
Nonetheless, Chalk and Kirkbride embrace the fact that their production is “rough around the edges” and somewhat “amateur” compared to the typically “polished” performances offered by the Drama Barn. “We are not trying to modernise Shakespeare in any way”, Chalk claims. Kirkbride adds, “the production is very simplistic: all of our props are borrowed from various places, or have been hand made”.
In fact, as Chalk and Kirkbride go on to describe to me the “fast-paced” and frolicsome nature of their production comes across as rather fun and charming. One begins to imagine the background of the dusky sky, and the fairy lights illuminating the scene to create a dreamy ambience during the evening performance (which is available to students). Kirkbride explains how she envisages groups of friends sociably “sitting on the grass with rugs”, absorbing the atmosphere, and watching the actors leap about.
Ultimately, the aim of the production is to raise awareness about the versatility of Student Action’s projects . Chalk proclaims how fantastic the process of directing the play has been, and that getting involved with Student Action means that “you meet lots of new people”.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is completely free and open to all who choose to join along Wednesday Week 7, 6.30pm on Vanbrugh Bowl. I for one am going to be taking the organisers advice and bring a picnic and, of course, a bottle of wine.