• Director, Ella Marchment
  • Conductor, Jan Wagner
  • Composer, Benjamin Britten
  • Librettist, Peter Pears
  • Designer, Madeleine Boyd
  • Shenandoah Conservatory, Winchester, USA
  • Ohrstrom-Bryant Theatre
  • Cast and creatives
  • April 2023

Synopsis / programme note

Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream depicts an escape from the societal governs and patriarchal law of mythical Athens as the young lovers Hermia and Lysander hope to elope and legitimize a love that is forbidden among conventional society. However, they are not alone in their pursuit as the lovesick Demetrius (who also is in love with Hermia) and Helena (who is in turn in love with Demetrius) follow these two lovers into the woods and chaos unfolds as Puck (a fairy) causes both men to fall in love with Helena. 

It is a comedy of errors, of mistaken identities, where dreams become realities and the mystical world of nature becomes a character in this fantastical narrative where the trials and tribulations of love become manipulated, distorted, and finally – righted – by supernatural powers.

However, fast forward to our modern day society where the wills of our families and friends still dominate and influence our decisions about who to love, and combine this with the context of wild nature as a means to escape within. This leads us to a pertinent question: where do we turn to when we seek to escape our own reality if we humans have destroyed the natural habitat we both admire yet also take for-granted? 

Our A Midsummer Night’s Dream brings this world to the fore where the warning words of ‘the seasons alter’ from ‘Tytania and Oberon’ (the two figures that represent the power of nature) announce that the beauty of nature has been destroyed because of the imbalance between them in the operas first scene. The lovers no longer have a forest to retreat into and therefore turn to a man-made place in order to escape – in our case the underbelly of an abandoned distillery. There is no pomp and circumstance to this setting, just a constant reminder that this could be our future if we do not act now. 

The piece follows the typical ebb and flow of Shakespeare’s drama whilst offering a dim reminder that when the forces of nature are reconciled and cared for seeds can germinate again.

Our journey is one of renewal, revitalization and return to mother nature, and the inner peace finally achieved by all our characters heralds a return to the world that has been suppressed. It is simultaneously a love story where the Freudian id is let lose in a chaotic manner until it is finally reconciled, and a new peace is instilled in our protagonists and nature itself.


All photos (C) C. King Media