This year, the RSC and amateur companies around the UK will be inviting audiences to join them on a Midsummer adventure with a unique production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
In May, our stage will be transformed into a place of mischief and mayhem with London’s Tower Theatre Company at the helm as Bottom and the Mechanicals.
With the tour underway, we catch up with the company to see how rehearsals are going and what they are looking forward to about performing with the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Barbican.
Introduce yourselves – who are the Tower Theatre Company?
The Tower Theatre Company has been going for more than 80 years. We do about 18 shows a year, which makes us one of the busiest non-professional companies in London. All sorts of people come together to put on our productions doing a variety of jobs – technical and administrative as well as artistic.
We used to have our own theatre at the Canonbury Tower (hence the name) but for the last 10 years have been using a variety of fringe venues such as the Bridewell Theatre close to Blackfriars. We do a range of plays and shows and tour with a Shakespeare play to Paris every year and to the Minack Theatre in Cornwall every other year. Our production of The Producers won the Minack Trophy in 2014. This year’s production will be a new musical written by one of our members.
What does it mean to you to be representing the capital for ‘A Play for the Nation’?
We are delighted to have been chosen to partner with the RSC for A Midsummer Night’s Dream in London – some say the Theatre capital of the world. And the Barbican stage is one of the best we have. This is a fantastic opportunity to collaborate with one of the world’s most revered professional theatre companies and we can’t wait for the first night. It is sort of like being asked to play for Arsenal at the Emirates for a quarter of a match!
What is it like to rehearse with a professional company – are there any big differences to your normal process?
The main difference is that the professionals are available 100%. We (mostly) have day jobs and fit rehearsals in with everything else that goes on! They have time as well as talent. The other thing we noticed is that the professionals are very open to trying out new things, playing with the text and movement and being very open to finding their way into the piece through experiment.
How did you rehearse long-distance?
Because there are teams of Mechanicals all over the UK, some of the rehearsals have been conducted at long distance via a live link to our laptop. This has enabled the production team to be in 12 different places at once.
What have been your highlights of the rehearsal process?
A highlight was joining the professional cast for the first run through at the RSC studios in Clapham just before the full company moved off to Stratford.
And what have been the challenges?
The main challenge is to keep ourselves ready for May. Having rehearsed through January and February and got ourselves more or less to performance standard, we now have an agonising wait for the tour to arrive at the Barbican.
What are you looking forward to most about performing at the Barbican?
To be at a major venue that was designed to RSC specifications will be a thrill. We are not used to such a large auditorium.
What can our audiences expect from Bottom and his Mechanicals in London?
I hope the audience will be entertained and enjoy the production as a whole. We will be fitting into an overall production but I hope there will be a feeling in the audience that we represent the locals!
The RSC’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A Play for the Nation with the Tower Theatre Company arrives at the Barbican on 17–21 May.
To find out more about the Tower Theatre Company, their current programme and how to join, visit towertheatre.org.uk
Meet the individual Tower Theatre Company members on the RSC’s Dream 16 website
Photo: The Tower team in a workshop led by RSC movement coach Sinead O’Keefe – with the BBC crew in attendance. Credit: Photography by Ruth Anthony
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