Matthew Lenton on the Lyceum's new production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream
It can be difficult to think of a way to make one of Shakespeare’s most popular and performed plays feel new. But director Matthew Lenton of Vanishing Point, who brings a new production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream to the Royal Lyceum this month, has found a way of turning the text on its head. He’s set it in winter.
Inspired by argumentative fairy queen Titania’s description of the seasons being out of kilter (‘thorough this distemperature we see / The seasons alter’), Lenton finds a way to make a traditionally summery play much colder and darker. ‘It’s snowing at the start of the show,’ he says, ‘which makes it hard for some of the characters to make a living.
‘There began to be a strong contrast for me between the people who are struggling, the workers, and the people who have privilege and wealth and can protect themselves from these things.’ The hardships of winter lend a political edge to a play that’s so often done as a romp, as the upside down seasons throw the social balance out of joint, too.