Holly Williams in discussion with David Lan

Young Vic production ofA Midsummer Night's Dream Directed by Joe Hill-Gibbins

It starts with a play – and a passion. The Young Vic may have developed a reputation as the home of so-called ‘director’s theatre’, offering radical takes on classic plays directed by the likes of Joe Hill-Gibbins, Ivo van Hove, Benedict Andrews, Carrie Cracknell and Simon Stone, but for artistic director David Lan, the really crucial component is still the play. The right director is the person who mounts a convincing case for urgently staging it right here, right now.

“What I start from is the premise that there’s no point doing the play unless we’re excited by what’s in the play,” he explains. “You’ve got to love it. With A Midsummer Night’s Dream, we’re doing it because Joe said, ‘I really really want to do it’.” It’s this compulsion to revisit a classic, looking anew at “how is this relevant now?” that often leads to the “most surprising and deep response.”

A surprising response to a well-loved play – including A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with its magic, fairies and romance – can raise hackles, even if it does spring from a director’s own love affair with the material.

Lan recognises that unusual stagings of classic plays make some audiences anxious.

“Part of my job is to find a way to say ‘it’s fine: it may not be exactly what you think it’s going to be, but it’s good! It’s real.  You’re not being cheated out of anything.’” Indeed, the hope is that by shaking off the shackles of over-familiarity, the play comes into a sharp new focus – as was the case with van Hove’s A View from the Bridge, Cracknell’s A Doll’s House or Stone’s Yerma.

“People say, don’t you sometimes want to get out of the way and just ‘do’ the play? But you can’t just ‘do’ the play,” Lan suggests. To him, any production is a series of choices, from what the actors bring to their parts to the visual world a designer creates. Any performance that has a director is, in a sense, director’s theatre because they guide these choices. “With any production, you’re always going to see the particular director’s take on the play; it just might not be a very interesting director!”

The notion, especially when it comes to Shakespeare, that actors should simply speak the text or trust the language is also naive. “A robot could just ‘say the words’, but an actor can’t, because they’re a human being and what they’re responding to is the meaning those words have in the situation they’re in.”

And this response can be – should be – complicated and multifaceted. If there’s one thing Lan really wants a Young Vic production to do, it’s to explore the contradictions inherent in being human, contradictions which the best dramatists reveal. They’re certainly there in Shakespeare.

Young Vic production ofA Midsummer Night's Dream Directed by Joe Hill-Gibbins

“We’re trying to say, all human life is here. And audiences feel that, they’re not patronised, the characters in this play are as complicated and complex as they are. Everybody’s life is a complete mess, everybody is going ‘god I don’t know what to do’ – and that’s in the plays. Don’t try to resolve it. Stage the contradiction.”

That means allowing the play to be complex: A Midsummer Night’s Dream might turn out to be stranger than we expect. The material shouldn’t be treated with stuffy reverence but as an obligatory dose of cultural medicine.

“It’s not to do with simplifying, or saying ‘oh this is a bit like a druggy rave so let’s get a lot of polythene…’ No bullshit, [but also] no worthiness, no saying it’s good for us.” Just the question: is there actually something there for us, today, in a certain play?

In attempting to answer this question, the Young Vic has become known for its distinctive takes on familiar works (not that, as Lan points out, the theatre would be considered radical compared to most European theatres) but while he’s “delighted that people think that if you go to the Young Vic you will get something special, or unexpected, or surprising”, he also hopes that people think of the Young Vic as a place where you still “really get the play.” That’s where it starts – and that’s where it ends, too.

By Holly Williams

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is running at the Young Vic until 1 April. Find our more about the show and book tickets here.

“The laundry bill must be incredible” – How DO our wardrobe team cope with #YVDream Mud?

The Young Vic costume department have been both complimented and commiserated with, by critics and audience members alike as to how they have to deal with our A Midsummer Night Dream mud every night. Especially those white pants…. come on! We talked to Head of Costume Catherine Kodicek about how this is done. 

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“Over the years we have been challenged by lots of productions when it comes to the laundry and maintenance of the costumes; oodles of blood from all kinds of injuries, bags of vomit made from soup and other food items, bottles of ink, water with brown dye in it which the actors fall in to, sticky champagne that gets sprayed over them, paint which they cover themselves in, make-up and even a food fight with trifle, but nothing has really compared to the mud in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Not since the *blood rain* in A View From The Bridge has every single item of costume come up completely covered and needing to be transformed back to its clean self.

The key to survival is to have doubles of as many of the costumes as possible so that they do not get washed every single day. Washing and drying can wear out even very robust fabrics. There will always be items from vintage shops and markets that you cannot buy a second version of so if possible make replicas of these. The more duplicates you have the fewer times each item will be washed and the longer they will look good. Some of the actors in the show have between 2 and 6 versions of their costumes.

  • Before we let any actual costumes get muddy we did a wash test with some old clothes to see how washable the mud was- the answer was *not very washable on natural fibres*. On man made fabric such as polyester and nylon the mud comes out relatively easy. On natural fibres such as cotton and linen the fabric wants to hold the mud particles and so the mud is harder to get out.
  • Using the same method we used successfully on the Wardrobe staff doing the laundryblood rain did not help us. Every
    heavily soiled item needed rinsing or soaking, scrubbing then washing, rinsing and washing again before it was clean. In the end the magic ingredient to dislodge the mud particles was washing up liquid!!  (an old trick recommended by Upstage Theatrical Dry Cleaners who we use regularly for dry cleaning).
  • Every item still needed to be scrubbed and then washed, but the washing up liquid proved to be more successful that any of the oxy action or other *stain removal* products. We discovered that the cheaper the detergent the better, as it produces fewer bubbles and makes rinsing easier.
  • We found that drying the suit trousers first and brushing off the surface mud prior to surface washing gave the best results. Finally we also ran the whites through an ecological bleach to freshen them regularly and let the lighting do the rest.”

So there you have it. How to clean a entire company’s costumes every night post mud-roll.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream runs in the YV Main House until 1 April. For more information and to book, click here.

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YV Blind Date – Alice & Max 💕 – “Very good date night play”

Blind date

Alice on Max:

What were you hoping for?

An evening of good company, and a way of meeting someone new outside my normal social circle that enjoys the theatre and the arts.

First impressions?

Max was approachable, friendly and made me feel at ease.

What did you drink in The Cut Bar and was it a good place for pre-theatre mingling?

A G & T to calm my blind date nerves. The bar had a nice buzz about it and a relaxed atmosphere for a date.

What did you talk about before the show?

His job, which is fascinating, where we grew up and that someone he went to LAMDA with was in the play (a small world).
My job, and how I (try to) balance my social life and theatre/gig going schedule.
Pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zones.

Any awkward moments?

I was 5 minutes late due to a Citymapper fail (map reading is not my strong point). Sorry!
Oh and we almost forgot to take the selfie.

Describe him in 3 words.

Intriguing, smiley, a gentleman.

What did you think of #YVDream and was it a good date night play?

I’d thoroughly recommend it as a date night play, the humour and muddy mayhem worked well.

Rate the date using as many emojis as you like.

🎭😂👍🏻📷

Would you meet again? (Romantically/as friends/as theatre companions)

As theatre companions, we had lots to talk about and he’d been to some interesting productions I haven’t seen yet.

Max on Alice:

What were you hoping for?

Love! Crazy love!

First impressions?

Very good.

What did you drink in The Cut Bar and was it a good place for pre-theatre mingling?

Tonic water, great place to meet- atmosphere, music, lively people, good vibe.

What did you talk about before the show?

Our interests/work and theatre/shows we’d seen before.

Any awkward moments?

I don’t feel awkwardness on dates, it’s a waste of time.

Describe her in 3 words.

Articulate, pretty, chilled.

What did you think of #YVDream and was it a good date night play?

Very good date night play- for Shakespeare fans, which we were.

Rate the date using as many emojis as you like. 

👁📸🎉🌘🍈🍸🎼🎭

Would you meet again? (Romantically/as friends/as theatre companions)

No.

Max and Alice met at The Cut Bar & Restaurant before watching A Midsummer Night’s Dream, running at the Young Vic until 1 April. Find our more about the show here, or let us know if you want us to carry on with #YVBlindDate and would apply yourself: marketing@youngvic.org.

YV Blind Date – Zoe & Dan 💘 – “Catching sight of my terrible red wine lips in the mirror!”

Zoe and Dan

Zoe on Dan:

What were you hoping for?

An interesting person, a good laugh, and some good theatre.

First impressions?

Positive, felt quite at ease. Neither of us ran away, so that was good.

What did you drink in The Cut Bar and was it a good place for pre-theatre mingling?

We both went for wine, white for me. The Cut is great pre-show – lively, buzzing atmosphere.

What did you talk about before the show?

Mainly acting – we’re both actors, figures!

Any awkward moments?

Selfie-taking was a bit of an ordeal, not big on selfies in any context. Also, probably finding out he has my ex on Snapchat…

Describe him/her in 3 words.

Genuinely nice guy.

What did you think of #YVDream and was it a good date night play?

Definitely the darkest, dirtiest Dream I’ve seen. Good for discussion, probably not for romance.

Did you stay on after the show to discuss?

We did indeed, over a Midsummer-themed cocktail. Got a bit distracted by Ben Whishaw at the bar at one point.

If you could change one thing about the date, what would it be?

Nothing really, had a great time overall.

Rate the date using as many emojis as you like.

🍷+🎭+🍸+📸=👌

Would you meet again? (Romantically/as friends/as theatre companions)

Sure, he made a great theatre buddy.

 

Dan on Zoe:

What were you hoping for?

Spellbinding theatre and perhaps spellbinding company

First impressions?

She seemed pretty chilled at meeting a random stranger! Also lovely eyes.

What did you drink in The Cut Bar and was it a good place for pre-theatre mingling?

I had a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon and she had a glass of white. There’s a great atmosphere to the place whilst also feeling cozy and intimate, kudos to whoever designed the warm low lighting.

What did you talk about before the show?

As we’re both actors conversation inevitably circled towards that. The difficulties of the Edinburgh fringe. Post- drama school life.

Any awkward moments?

Conversation flowed pretty easy but I did feel embarrassed after catching sight of my terrible red wine lips in the bathroom mirror.

Describe her in 3 words.

Witty, intelligent, composed.

What did you think of #YVDream and was it a good date night play?

I enjoyed the bold choices that were made but it  is a very dark version of the play that doesn’t leave you optimistic about love and romance so maybe not! On the other hand all the mud on stage leaves you feeling a bit dirty so there is that….

Did you stay on after the show to discuss?

Yes, we grabbed a couple of cocktails in the bar upstairs. I’d recommend the Peckham Pelican.

If you could change one thing about the date, what would it be?

Would have chosen white instead of red wine.

Rate the date using as many emojis as you like. 

  🍷🍹🎟🦆🐜🐙🌷

Would you meet again? (Romantically/as friends/as theatre companions)

She’s the first person I’ve met whose even a more avid theatre goer than me. Would definitely meet again for theatre trips and speculating on how much washing the stage manager has to do.

Zoe and Dan met at The Cut Bar & Restaurant before watching A Midsummer Night’s Dream, running at the Young Vic until 1 April. Find our more about the show here, or let us know if you want us to carry on with #YVBlindDate and would apply yourself: marketing@youngvic.org.

🌟🌟🌟🌟 “Deviant and dazzlingly imaginative” | A Midsummer Night’s Dream reviews

Director Joe Hill-Gibbins has teamed up with designer Johannes Schütz (Three Sisters) to dive into the subconscious of Shakespeare’s masterpiece, giving us a nightmarish #YVDream that everyone’s talking about.

See what the critics, press night guests and audiences alike have been saying in our round-up below.

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John Dagleish and Jemima Rooper as Lysander and Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Photo by Keith Pattison.

🌟🌟🌟🌟
“Lust and violence are never far away. Delves into the collective unconscious.”
The Guardian | Read the full review here

🌟🌟🌟🌟
“Deviant and dazzlingly imaginative”
The Independent | Read the full review here

 

“I loved so much about last night. All one wants is for people to speak with their souls present, and to remind us that this language and the contradiction of peoples’ personalities shines across 500 years.”
– Fiona Shaw

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Check out what else audiences have been saying over on our Storify and catch #YVDream while tickets last at Young Vic until 1 April .

11 Questions with the cast of A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Michael Gould

You may remember Michael Gould from our recent smash-hit “superbly acted” 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟(Metro) A View from the Bridge. Now he’s back playing Theseus/Oberon in Joe Hill Gibbins’ dark and nightmarish take on Shakespeare’s tale of betrayal and desire, A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

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Michael Gould with Mark Strong and the rest of the A View from the Bridge company at the YV in 2014

Describe your character in A Midsummer Night’s Dream in three emojis?

🗣 ⚡️ 💩

What’s it been like working with Joe Hill-Gibbins?

Fascinating and terrifying!

Which Dream character would you pick as your Valentine ❤ and why? 

I would pick Cupid, just to get his take on the whole Valentine thing, I know it is a busy day for him but it would be great to chat.

What was it that first got you interested in the theatre?

Believe it or not, a Young Vic production of Troilus and Cressida in 1975 (or so). I didn’t understand everything but the staging and the words were thrilling!

What is your favourite play (seen, read or worked on)?

A View From the Bridge at The Young Vic.

You’re hosting a dinner party. Who are your 3 dream guests? 

I would like to invite three characters I have played and find out how the show was for them, did we miss anything, did they feel represented properly etc, did they have any opinions about our interpretation, questions they wanted to ask, did other actors get closer to their truth… – so Alfieri, Iago and, why not, Theseus/Oberon (I know that is four really or is it…?)

There’s a common conception that hearing about other people’s dreams are boring. Tell us about your least-boring dream. 😴 zzzz

Don’t be sad, it is a long time ago but my Dad died on Christmas day. That night I dreamt he hitched a ride in Santa’s sleigh, asking to be dropped off at a resting place in the sky!

If you hadn’t become an actor, what job would you be doing now?

Teaching has always appealed. I have done a bit and I always enjoy it.

Who is your ultimate hero and why?

I am not really a hero kind of person. I think we are a little bit too obsessed by individual glory. I admire great teams, so the 2016 Hockey team I would say are my heroes (currently) and, of course, the glorious ensemble company that is the A Midsummer Night’s Dream Team.

If you could have any one supernatural power which would you choose and why?

Very happy to be able to inhabit Oberon’s Invisibility at the moment, I hear some great gossip and I can influence events in a truly intriguing way.

What are you usually doing 10 minutes before the show begins?

On this show probably having a wee as we are going to be on stage throughout. I did the same on A View From The Bridge and I should probably list “bladder control” as a special skill on my CV.

Meet the rest of the A Midsummer Night’s Dream Cast

The rest of the casting for Joe Hill-Gibbins’ A Midsummer Night’s Dream is in! Rehearsals have started and joining an already great line up is: Geoff Aymer (Tom Snout), Sam Cox (Robin Starveling), Aaron Heffernan (Francis Flute), Lloyd Hutchinson (Puck/Egeus), Douggie McMeekin ( Snug) and Melanie Pappenheim (Philostrate/Fairy). Find out more about the new cast members below.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream runs at the Young Vic 16 Feb – 1 Apr. £10 tickets available. Book now.

Geoff Aymer geoff-aymer
For the Young Vic:
 Hamlet and Macbeth.
Theatre includes: Driving Miss Daisy (Canal Café Theatre/ Frinton-on-Sea Summer Theatre), Albatross 3rd & Main (Emporium Theatre, Brighton), To Kill a Mocking Bird (Barbican/ Regent Park Open Air Theatre), Cheese and Crackwhores (Soho), The Lightning Child, Macbeth (The Globe), Neighbors (Hightide Festival / Nuffield), That Old Feeling (The Mill at Sonning), Angel House (Eclipse Theatre, National Tour), Anansi Trades Places (Talawa Company / Shaw Theatre), Marking Time (Frinton-on-Sea Summer Theatre), Weights (Blue Elephant), Brixton Stories (Lyric Hammersmith), What’s in the Cat (Contact Theatre, Manchester / Royal Court), The Big Life (Theatre Royal Stratford East / Apollo), Pirandello’s Henry IV (Etcetera Theatre), Revolution (C-1 Venue, Edinburgh Festival), Evolution (C+3 Venue, Edinburgh Festival), Gagging for It (Gilded Balloon II, Edinburgh Festival), Newsrevue (The Canal Café), Assorted Foolishness (National Tour). Film includes: The Last Tree, Sket and RagTag. Television includes: Guerrilla, Eastenders, The A Force and The Real McCoy. Writing credits include: Anansi and The Magic Mirror (Talawa/Hackney Empire), The Oddest Couple (Theatre Royal Stratford East), What a Wonderful World (Blue Elephant) and Celador (Television Pilot).

sam-coxSam Cox 
For the Young Vic: Man – The Strangest Kind of Romance and My Dad’s a Birdman. Theatre includes: Macbeth, The Winter’s Tale, Pericles, ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore, Doctor Scroggy’s War, Julius Caesar, Gabriel, The Tempest, Henry V, Anne Boleyn, All’s Well That End’s Well, Henry VIII (The Globe), The Crucible (Manchester Royal Exchange), The Twits  (Royal Court), The Trojan Women (Gate Theatre), Lovesong (Frantic Assembly Tour), The Deep Blue Sea (West Yorkshire Playhouse), Inherit the Wind  (Old Vic), Arcadia (Duke of Yorks), Edward Gant’s Amazing Feats of Loneliness  (Headlong Theatre), Oedipus (National Theatre), God in Ruins, Macbeth, King John  (RSC), Festen (Almeida Theatre/West End). Film includes:  Anna Karenina, The Look of Love, Wall, Agora and Hippy Hippy Shake. Television includes:  Father Brown, Borgia, Doctors, New Tricks, The Commander and Doctor Who. 

aaron-heffernanAaron Heffernan 
Theatre credits include: The Picture of Dorian Gray (The Abbey Theatre), Tender Napalm by Philip Ridley (Sugarglass Theatre), ‘Andorra, Lovers’, The Importance of Being Earnest, The Wonderful World of Dissocia: Equus, The Seagull, Tiny Dynamite (Samuel Beckett Theatre); The Threepenny Opera (Gate Theatre), The Little Shop of Horrors (Players Theatre), Oklahoma (Mill Theatre), Obama Mia (Edinburgh Festival Fringe). Aaron has also performed in three sell-out Edinburgh Fringe runs with comedy sketch group A Betrayal of the Penguins and 3 sell-out runs with the puppet musical comedies Monster Clock, Human Child and Bears in Space with his company Collapsing Horse Theatre. Film credits include: Alpha Papa: The Alan Partridge Movie, ‘Love, Rosie’, The Long Walk and The Titan. Television credits include: Love/Hate, Discovery Obsessions and BBC2’s Mum.

Lloyd Hutchinson.jpgLloyd Hutchinson
For the Young Vic:  A Respectable Wedding, also directed by Joe Hill-Gibbins, in 2007.
Theatre  includes: Plough and The Stars, Husbands & Sons, Collaborators (National Theatre), The Joke (Fuel Theatre), The Beaux’s Stratagem, The Observer (Royal National Theatre), A View From The Bridge (Liverpool Playhouse), Little  Revolution, Measure for Measure, The Lightening Play (Almeida Theatre), Particle of Dread (Signature Theatre/Field Day/ The Playhouse Derry), Boris Godunov, The Orphan of Zhao (RSC), The Birthday Party (Lyric Hammersmith), Twelfth Night (Wyndhams Theatre) and Rhinoceros (Royal Court). Film includes: Florence Foster Jenkins, Anonymous, Mrs Henderson Presents, Gladiatress, Boxed and With or Without You. Television includes: Catastrophe, White Gold,Silent Witness, Utopia, Casualty, Hatfields & McCoys, Hustle, Titanic, The Fades, Silk, The Bill, Midsomer Murders, Pulling Moves, Murphy’s Law, Lloyd & Hill, Rebel Heart and In Defence.


Douggie McMeekindm

Theatre includes: Wendy and Peter Pan (RSC), Rabbit, As you Like It, Boys, Macbeth, The Walmorth Farce, Uncle Vanya, For Emma, A Trip to Scarborough, The Duchess of Malfi, Under The Blue Sky (LAMDA). Television  includes: Harlots, The Crown and A Gert Lush Christmas. Film includes: The Call Up.

melanie-pappenheim

Melanie Pappenheim
Theatre includes:  Here All Night (Gare St Lazare Ireland), Macbeth, Antony and Cleopatra (The Globe), Peter Pan (Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre), Saint Joan, The Skriker (National Theatre), Dr Dee (Manchester International Festival/ENO). Opera includes: A Ring A Lamp A Thing and Ingerland (Royal Opera House). Film soundtracks include: Gangs of New York, Eyes Wide Shut, Jane Eyre, Pan and Everest.
Television soundtracks include:  Doctor Who. Film includes: The Alien, Strange Fish and Warren Beatty’s Coat.