Bristol Old Vic production of A Midsummer Night's Dream to feature Warhorse-style puppets
BRISTOL Old Vic theatre will stage an experimental new version of William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.
The production, which is being created with the award-winning Handspring Puppet Company, will run at the newly-redeveloped venue from February until May next year.
The theatre's artistic director Tom Morris last collaborated with the South Africa-based company on the international hit play War Horse.
Launching the new production in front of an invited audience at the King Street theatre last night, Mr Morris said he had been following Handspring's work since 1995.
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He said: "They are the greatest puppet company in the world and it is a huge thrill to be able to invite them to Bristol to collaborate with us on this experimental version of Shakespeare's sexiest and most magical comedy."
Mr Morris believes the production marks a significant step forward for Bristol Old Vic and its ambition to collaborate with world-class artists to create work of international repute. Following its run in Bristol, the production of A Midsummer Night's Dream will transfer to the Spoleto Festival USA in South Carolina and then the International Festival of Arts and Ideas in New Haven, Connecticut. Further national and international dates will follow in 2014.
Mr Morris was joined on stage yesterday evening by the production's set designer Vicki Mortimer, and Handspring's artistic director Adrian Kohler and executive producer Basil Jones to talk about the upcoming production.
He hopes the new play will repeat the success of War Horse, for which he received a Tony Award for Best Director in 2011.
Mr Morris said he was unsure when puppets were last on the stage at the Bristol Old Vic, which opened in 1776 and is the oldest continually-operating theatre in England.
Casting is now taking place for the play, which is still at a concept and design stage.
Mr Jones said Shakespeare's text had been "stood completely on its head".
Some puppets for the show will be made in Bristol while others will be designed at the puppet company's base in Cape Town. The audience was told that a number of puppets would be quite primitive in their appearance, as part of an experimental approach to the production, while others would be more intricate. Mr Jones said the company had "learned technologies" from Bristol-based Aardman Animations and that top Bristol-based model maker John Wright would be involved in the project.
In a statement, Mr Kohler and Mr Jones said: "A Midsummer Night's Dream takes place in a world where magic and the fairies are palpable to the people in it.
"It's been great once again to be exploring new terrain with Tom Morris and to meet our designer Vicky Mortimer. The quest to find our Athens together has already been a joyous journey and the chance to transplant what we have discovered onto the newly born ancient stage of Bristol Old Vic is both an honour and extremely exciting."
Last month, the theatre threw open its doors after an extensive refurbishment, and is currently staging a production of John O'Keeffe's Wild Oats.
A Midsummer Night's Dream will run from February 28 to May 4.