Dream night ahead for actors

From left, Anthony Henry (Bottom), Ian Rowe (Snug), Garry Houghton (Flute), Tony Stone (Amateur Director), Huw Rose (Snout), Roger Lloyd-Jones  (Starveling) and Catherine Lloyd (Quince) on stage at the Grand, after winning their roles in the RSC's A Midsummer Night's Dream: A Play For The Nation
From left, Anthony Henry (Bottom), Ian Rowe (Snug), Garry Houghton (Flute), Tony Stone (Amateur Director), Huw Rose (Snout), Roger Lloyd-Jones (Starveling) and Catherine Lloyd (Quince) on stage at the Grand, after winning their roles in the RSC's A Midsummer Night's Dream: A Play For The Nation
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For once, a ‘mechanical’ performance will be one to celebrate for a group of actors joining the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Six amateur actors, all members of Poulton Drama, have won roles in the RSC’s special production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A Play For The Nation, at the Grand Theatre, Blackpool, next April.

The group will perform as the Mechanicals – including the iconic character Bottom, the weaver – in the much-loved Shakespeare play.

The Mechanicals are an ‘under-prepared, yet loveable bunch of craftsmen and women’ who stand up to perform for royalty in the tale.

Some 14 amateur theatre companies have been selected up and down the country to perform in 12 regional theatres during the tour next spring, as part of the RSC’s plans to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.

The project will also feature in a series of BBC documentaries, following the pressures and pitfalls of the project for both the amateurs and professionals, culminating in each of the regional opening nights.

Artwork for the Royal Shakespeare Company's A Midsummer Night's Dream: A Play For The Nation

Artwork for the Royal Shakespeare Company's A Midsummer Night's Dream: A Play For The Nation

Cast after a series of local workshops, the Poulton Drama members are Anthony Henry as Bottom, Garry Houghton as Flute, Catherine Lloyd as Quince, Roger Lloyd-Jones as Starveling, Huw Rose as Snout and Ian Rowe as Snug.

Together they’ve racked up more than 100 years of acting experience, and will join a professional RSC cast of 18, as well as the legendary theatre company’s creative team, led by RSC deputy artistic director and director of ‘A Play For The Nation’, Erica Whyman.

“The experience of casting our amateur actors all around the UK has been inspiring and humbling,” she said. “I have met so many wonderful people; talented, dedicated and brave.

“The standard has been tremendous, and the wonderful diversity of men and women who will be taking on these major roles is very exciting, and perhaps most importantly, they have really made us laugh.

Poulton Drama has grasped this opportunity with thoughtfulness

Erica Whyman

“In every single region the cast we have chosen has a distinctive voice and a strong sense of connection to the place where they will perform.

“It will be a real treat for audiences everywhere to see Shakespeare’s most magical play with a properly local flavour.

“Poulton Drama has grasped this opportunity with dedication and thoughtfulness, delivering an exceptional final audition. We are very excited about where this company could go, already performing the scenes with impressive clarity and verve.

“A hard-working group with an endearing humility, they are perfect casting for The Mechanicals. They are people for whom theatre is evidently a life-affirming joy.”

Initially they will work under their own Poulton director Tony Stone, before joining forces with the RSC in the new year.

After the tour, the production will return to the RSC’s Stratford home, where each amateur cast will have the chance to take to the historic stage.

Tony said: “This has already been the ultimate experience for both myself as director and the very hard-working and dedicated cast from Poulton Drama.

“We all realise the gravity of this opportunity and will give our best possible at both Blackpool and when we perform in Stratford.”

A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A Play For The Nation will run at the Grand Theatre from Tuesday to Saturda, April 5 to 9. Call (01253) 290190 for tickets, from £19.