Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ to play in English at Prague Castle

'The Wheel of Time' star Hammed Animashaun co-directs a new staging based on Jeffrey Whitty's modern translation of the Bard's fantastical comedy.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 26.07.2021 11:42:00 (updated on 26.07.2021) Reading time: 4 minutes

Two performances of Shakespeare’s fantasy comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream will take place in English in the garden of Prague Castle on July 29 and 30 as part of the annual Summer Shakespeare Festival (Letní Shakespearovské slavnosti).

A highlight this time is that actor Hammed Animashaun, who is in Prague to appear in the Amazon series The Wheel of Time, will co-direct the play along with Prague Shakespeare Company’s artistic director Guy Roberts.

A new text for the play will be used. The modern “translation” by a Tony Award-winning playwright Jeffrey Whitty follows the original “line for line and rhyme for rhyme” but makes it more accessible to to the modern ear, and especially to non-native speakers. This production will feature Czech surtitles as well.

“This new version is about 70 percent Shakespeare and 30 percent Jeffrey Whitty. All of the difficult and hard-to-understand language has been modernized and made accessible to today’s audiences,” Roberts said.

The role of Oberon will be played by Lane Davies, whose acting credits include an episode of Seinfeld as well as recurring roles in the 1980s soap Santa Barbara as well as on Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman and 3rd Rock From the Sun, and dozens of other appearances on TV film, and stage.

Lane Davies as Oberon and Vanessa Gendron as Puck. (Photo: Kaja Curtis Photography)
Lane Davies as Oberon and Vanessa Gendron as Puck. (Photo: Kaja Curtis Photography)

PSC regular Jessica Boone will play Titania. Her TV credits include Shadowplay, Carnival Row, Das Boot, Crossing Lines and series regular Rabia in Missing, as well as appearances in films and as a voice in Japanese anime.

"This classic Shakespeare comedy is the perfect escape for audiences of all ages to come together and celebrate the wonder of Shakespeare and the magic of falling in love after our time of isolation because of coronavirus,” Roberts said.

He added that the play was set in a magical wood filled with fantastical fairies, sprites, and legendary creatures, with original music by Patrick Neil Doyle.

Sofia Mayorga as Mab, a fairy. (Photo: Kaja Curtis Photography)
Sofia Mayorga as Mab, a fairy. (Photo: Kaja Curtis Photography)

Hammed Animashaun is not new to A Midsummer Night’s Dream. He recently played the role of Bottom in another production.

“Hammed’s performances on stage have quickly established him as one of the great theater artists working today in the UK, and his recent award-winning performance as Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream has defined the role for a new generation,” Roberts said.

“Hammed’s impact in rehearsal was immediate and powerful. The rehearsals have been extraordinary – insightful, touching and very funny. We are laughing all the time. This is going to be a very special Dream,” he added.

Animashaun is enthusiastic about looking at the play from a different perspective “It’s my favorite play of all time and to be given the opportunity to co-direct is a dream (pun intended),” he said.

Hammed Animashaun.
Hammed Animashaun is co-directing the play. (Courtesy photo)

He isn’t planning anything too radical for the work. “I don’t think the aim is to create a new version or shed new light to a timeless piece of work. I think the aim is to allow the audience to escape the anxieties and stresses of the world for a couple of hours to have a laugh with each other. It’s certainly been that way in rehearsals – so I hope we can replicate that for the audience,” he said.

Working with an international cast and aiming at a mixed audience has not neem a challenge.

“And that’s the beauty of Shakespeare – how universal it is. Next time (if there ever is one) I’d love to direct a Shakespeare play all in Czech. But for now, I’ll just focus on this production,” he said.

Working on a play and series ar the same time has been a challenge, but he still manages to get six to eight hours of sleep. “I’m flying,” he said.

Jessica Boone has previously appeared in the play in a different role. “I have played Helena twice before but not for PSC. This is my first time playing Titania and acting in Dream for PSC,” she said.

Grant Podelco as Snug / Lion. (Photo:  Kaja Curtis Photography)
Grant Podelco as Snug / Lion. (Photo: Kaja Curtis Photography)

Helena is one of the Athenians, while Titania is queen of the Fairies.

“I think it would be a bit difficult if Titania and Helena had a lot of scenes together. But the structure of Dream is such that the three main worlds (Fairy, Lovers & Mechanical) are mostly separate. So in a way it’s like rehearsing a new play altogether for me,” she said.

Boone said that the play was quite timely as not only due to Covid, but also the number number of climate catastrophes. “It has certainly made Titania’s speech in Act 2 resonate with me: ‘The winds … as in revenge have sucked up from the sea contagious fogs. … The moon pale in her anger washes all the air that rheumatic diseases do about. And through this distemperature we see the seasons alter … and the mazed world now knows not which is which. And this same progeny of evils comes from our debate from our dissension, ’ We mortals better get our priorities straight!” she said.

She added that working with two directors has gone smoothly. “I think we were all thrilled just to be in a room, creating again so having Hammed join at the helm was just an absolute … Dream. His approach and his energy are so fresh and immediate. So far its been a joyous harmony throughout the process that I hope our audiences will feel as well,” she said.

Performances are Thursday and Friday, July 29 and 30, at 8:30 pm at the Royal Garden of Prague Castle, entrance on Mariánské hradby Street. More information can be found on the Letní Shakespearovské slavnosti website. Tickets are available at the venue and in advance from Ticketmaster. Valid hygiene rules for events apply.

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