It may be the depths of winter, but for a troupe of local actors their minds are firmly fixed on Midsummer.
Poulton Drama are now well into rehearsals for their performance with the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Grand Theatre.
Members of the society will take to the stage in April as part of the RSC’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which is a national project to bring the professionals together with amateur actors marking the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death.
Poulton’s players, and troupes across the country, will be the Mechanicals in the popular work - a rather comical, haphazard group of amateur actors staging a play within the play - and including the famous role of Bottom who becomes the unlikely object of fairy queen Titania’s affections thanks to a love potion.
After months of workshops and tasks set by the RSC, which have been recorded and sent to the company’s Straford-Uopn-Avon base, rehearsals have begun in earnest, with associate director Kim Sykes having taken them through their paces on the Grand’s stage this week.
The Poulton cast has also taken part in a workshop, with other members of their group, led by RSC movement practitioner Sian Williams.
The rehearsal with Kim was filmed for a BBC documentary on The Dream project, as well as being screened by satellite link to other groups rehearsing in Newcastle and London.
Kim said: “This group of actors is amazing. I love being here in Blackpool and working with this very talented team.
“It’s one of the most exciting projects I have been involved with and being able to have our rehearsal on the stage of one of the most beautiful theatres in England, is phenomenal.”
Ian Wainwright, from the RSC’s Open Stages branch - which leads projects of this kind around the country, attended the Grand Theatre’s new season launch to praise the local performers and explain more about The Dream project.
“I used to come to Blackpool for my holidays from West Yorkshire, and did that thing on the train where you’re the first person to spot the Tower,” he said.
“Coming here today, I thought about the character of Bottom, one of Shakespeare’s great clown, comic roles.
“What better tribute to Blackpool, where so many famous clowns and comedians have made their name, thanto have Bottom played by a local actor; although it’s rather like telling the town to suck eggs.”
Poulton Drama’s cast features Anthony Henry as Bottom, with Garry Houghton as Flute, Catherine Lloyd as Quince, Roger Lloyd-Jones as Starveling, Huw Rose as Snout and Ian Rowe as Snug.
They have been introduced, via online chat, to the 18-strong cast of Stratford professionals.
“As our professionals started to work with the amateur actors after that introduction, you could see them thinking ‘this is going to work’, and you started to see them play off each other,” Ian added.
“It reminded us that we’re not just picking people up off the street to join the cast, but that we have picked people who have been on stage for years and are bringing that experience to our production.”
As well as performing A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Grand Theatre, from Tuesday to Saturday, April 5 to 9, the Poulton Mechanicals will travel to Stratford in June to take to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre’s stage.
Tony Stone, director of Poulton Drama, added: “Not only do we have the experience of performing on our own wonderful Grand Theatre with the Royal Shakespeare Company, we also have phenomenal opportunity and honour to be able to perform in Shakespeare’s home at Stratford in July. “I am very proud of what the whole team have achieved.
“Several other members of Poulton Drama have taken the opportunity to join in with the acting, vocal and movement workshops held by the RSC over the last few months and many attended Kim’s main rehearsal to observe and support their fellow members.”