I was thinking about concocting something a bit special for this edition when I recalled that in a recent newspaper interview with Erica Whyman, director of A Play For The Nation: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the question was raised about the period the production would be set in. This was revealed to be the late 1940s.
“It’s about the country coming together after surviving a traumatic time and about the post war austerity. It fits with the play. It will have a “Dad’s Army” quality about it. That sense of an ill-equipped group of people” Erica Whyman
Now that set me on a rather whimsical train of thought. What if there was a “lost” episode of that perennial TV favourite……? (Sound of a harp and the screen goes all blurry and shimmery)
(Da da da da, dur dur da da)
Who do you think you are kidding, Mr Shakespeare
If you think we’re on the run?
We are the cast who will stop your little game
We are the cast who will make you think again
‘Cause who do you think you are kidding, Mr Shakespeare
If you think The Dream is done?
The RSC are keen to see that we are well prepared
Google hangouts, tasks and workshops stop us getting scared
So who do you think you are kidding, Mr Shakespeare
If you think The Dream is done?
Scene: The church hall
WHYMANWARING: (entering) Is all our company here?
QUINCE: It might be best to carry out a roll call, sir.
WHYMANWARING: Very good, Sergeant Quince – carry on.
QUINCE: Now men, would you mind awfully just falling in, in your own time? (All take positions) Platoon, platoon….shun ! (Business with Bottom being late) Answer your names as I call. Corporal Bottom?
BOTTOM: Yes sir, here sir, ready sir, yes sir.
QUINCE: Private Starveling?
STARVELING : Aye!
QUINCE: Private Snout….Private Snout?
STARVELING: I think he’s …. otherwise engaged.
WHYMANWARING: Doing what?
STARVELING: Do you need me to spell it out, man? He’s…… (enter Snout)
QUINCE: Ah here he is. Come along Snouty.
SNOUT: I’m sorry, sir. I just needed to pay a visit to the…er ….little boy’s room.
WHYMANWARING: (noise of annoyance)
QUINCE: Private Snug?
SNUG: All present and very much correct, sah!
SIR: Alright, Snug, no need to be facetious.
QUINCE: Private Pike?
FLUTE: Yes, Uncle Peter.
QUINCE: Not on parade, Frank.
FLUTE: Well, mum says that’s what I should call you.
WHYMANWARING: Never mind what your mother says, you’re in the army now…..Stupid boy! Now listen carefully, men. Firstly, I want to remind you that ahead of our rifles being delivered we’ve been asked to scrape together what weapons we can. Now fortunately the Walmington-on-sea Archery Club is going to loan us their equipment and we’re going to learn to use it tomorrow evening. Rendezvous at eighteen hundred hours in the Palace Wood. Secondly, we’ve had orders from Captain Duke at Regional Support Command to try and raise local morale by putting on a short Christmas entertainment in the church hall. Knowing his superior education in these matters, I set Sergeant Quince the task of seeking out something suitable for us to do and I’m very pleased to say that he’s come up with a piece a little out of the ordinary but that I’m sure will be very educational. Sergeant.
QUINCE: Thank you, sir. Well you fellows, what I thought we might do, is a short little play called the most lamentable comedy and most cruel death of PyramusandThisbe (run together as one word).
BOTTOM: Permission to speak, sir.
WHYMANWARING: Go ahead.
BOTTOM: Please sir, I would like to volunteer for the role of Pyramusandthisbe, sir.
QUINCE: It’s actually two roles.
BOTTOM : Well, sir, I’d like to volunteer for one of the two roles of Pyramusandthisbe, sir.
WHYMANWARING: That’s the spirit. What are Pyramus and Thisbe? Lovers or tyrants?
BOTTOM: Please sir, I’d like to volunteer to play a tyrant sir. When I was in the Sudan, General Gordon asked me to volunteer as a tyrant and lead the charge – they don’t like it up ‘em, sir, they don’t like it up ‘em!
WHYMANWARING: Alright, settle down. What about this Thisne?
QUINCE: Thisbe, sir is Pyramus’s young lover. I thought Frank might be suitable for that.
FLUTE: Oh no, don’t make me play a woman, Uncle Peter. Mum says I have a beard….coming.
WHYMANWARING: I’ve told you before, Flute, never mind what your mother says.
FLUTE: That’s not fair, I wanted to be a wandering knight who…..(chunters away making noises of dissension)
WHYMANWARING: I’m warning you Flute, I’ll have you on a charge for insubordination. Carry on Quince.
QUINCE: Now there’s plenty of other parts. We’ll need someone to play a Lion
BOTTOM : Please sir, I’d like to volunteer, to play the lion, sir. I could borrow Mrs. Fox’s fur coat and roar as loud as any sucking dove, sir….
BOTTOM: I will roar just like any nightingale….
BOTTOM: I will make Captain Duke say “Let him roar again”,sir, “Let him roar again!”
QUINCE: ….Bottom, you can play no part but Pyramus….do you see?
SNOUT: I’m sorry Captain Whymanwaring, but may I be excused?
WHYMANWARING: What again? You’ve only just been.
SNOUT: I’m sorry, sir but I’m afraid my sister Dolly’s upside down cake has had a bit of an effect.
WHYMANWARING: Oh very well….(Snout exits hurriedly) Right, I’ve decided; Snug you can be the Lion.
QUINCE: Do you think that’s wise, sir?
SNUG: Look, is this going to take long? I’ve got a job lot of fake coloured beards I need to shift, then I have to get some essential supplies for my wholesale business delivered by six o’clock or else I’ll never get hold of those petrol coupons. And then I’ve got a darts match booked at the Duke’s Oak.
WHYMANWARING: You’ll do as you’re told, Snug; there is a war on you know? We don’t have time for all this. Now, what other characters do we need?
QUINCE: Well sir, we need someone to represent Moonshine.
WHYMANWARING: Starveling, that’s you.
STARVELING: Mark my words, the whole thing’s doomed…doomed I tell you.
WHYMANWARING: Alright Starveling that’ll do… Is that it?
QUINCE: One more, sir – we need someone to act out the part of a wall.
WHYMANWARING: A wall?… I think I’m losing the will to live. Well, that’ll have to be Snout (Snout returns). Ah Snout, I was just saying, you’ll have to play the wall.
SNUG: (aside) If he can stand still for long enough.
WHYMANWARING: I’m warning you, Snug.
SNOUT: Oh, thank you very much, sir. Do you think I might I do it sitting down? My back has been rather bad lately…
WHYMANWARING: (interrupting) Now men we have here copies of the script which I’d like you to take and…
BOTTOM: Permission to speak, sir.
WHYMANWARING: What is it now?
BOTTOM: Please sir, I’d like to be the one who volunteers to hand out the scripts, sir.
WHYMANWARING: Very well …. (business with scripts)
FLUTE: (perusing script) Uncle Peter?
QUINCE: What is it, Frank?
FLUTE: Where’s Ninny’s tomb?
QUINCE: That’s Ninus, Frank; Ninus, you see?
WHYMANWARING: Stupid boy!
SNUG: Captain Whymanwaring?
WHYMANWARING: What is it, Snug?
SNUG: I don’t seem to have a script.
QUINCE: You won’t really need one, Snug, you’re only playing a Lion, do you see? It’s just a lot of roaring, that’s all.
SNUG: What like this? (he roars loudly startling Bottom)
BOTTOM: (throwing himself on top of Whymanwaring and knocking him to the floor) Don’t panic, Captain Whymanwaring, sir. Don’t panic! I’ll save you from the grisly beast, sir. I’ll save you!
WHYMANWARING: For heaven’s sake, man, what are you doing? Flute, give me a hand up, boy. (They get him up and he straightens his glasses).
FLUTE: It’s just like “The Wizard of Oz” isn’t it, Uncle Peter? You know when Dorothy rescues the others from the Cowardly Lion. Could we do “The Wizard of Oz” instead, Captain Whymanwaring? I could be the Scarecrow….
WHYMANWARING: (witheringly) He’s the one without a brain, isn’t he?
SNOUT: Excuse me, sir but it occurs to me that if Snug is going to roar that loudly it might frighten the ladies in the audience… my sisters particularly will be rather alarmed.
STARVELING: Aye, he’s right. We don’t want to frighten our audience to death. They’ll have us on a charge – aye, they may even hang us – every mother’s son.
WHYMANWARING: This is beginning to stray into the realms of fantasy. Quince, will you take control, man.
QUINCE: Right, now listen you fellows. It’s perfectly simple. You just go away and learn your lines and we’ll try it out tomorrow night after the archery training session, all right? It’s all going to be frightfully jolly, you’ll see.
BOTTOM: Permission to speak, sir?
WHYMANWARING: (exasperated) Yes?
BOTTOM: This is all just like a dream I had last night, Captain Whymanwaring. And in this dream, sir, we were all in the woods doing some archering and acting and that and suddenly I turned into a donkey, sir, and everybody ran away, and I danced in the wood, sir, with the queen of the fairies who looked just like Mrs Fox, and there were all these other little fairies giving me honey in a bag…and dry oats…and a good bottle of hay…
STARVELING: (aside) More like a bottle of gin.
BOTTOM: And then in the dream, sir, I woke up, sir – if you see what I mean, sir. Ooh, it was wonderful. The eye of man’s never heard the like, sir, nor the ear of man has never seen…
WHYMANWARING: Get to the point, Corporal
BOTTOM: Well, I thought we could turn it into a song, sir, and perhaps do a little dance.
WHYMANWARING: That’s a very good idea, Corporal. I’ll get Sergeant Quince to turn it into a ballad and we can sing it at the latter end of the play. Right, fall out men and get those lines learned. (Men fall out) Where are you going Quince?
QUINCE: Well I was going home for my tea, sir.
WHYMANWARING: Oh no you’re not; the Nazis won’t stop for tea, you know? You’re coming with me to check that all the archery equipment is ready for the men’s training tomorrow.
QUINCE: You mean…?
WHYMANWARING: That’s right – we’re going to hold and cut bowstrings!
A very merry Christmas to you all and thanks in advance for your support in Dreamyear (2016)