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Amateur Actors From Poulton Cast In The Royal Shakespeare Company’s Production Of A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A Play For The Nation

Some of Shakespeare’s best loved characters, the ‘Mechanicals’ (including the iconic role of Bottom the Weaver) are an under-prepared, yet loveable bunch of craftsmen and women who put themselves forward to entertain royalty at the end of the play. In Blackpool the roles will be played by:

Anthony Henry (Bottom, the Weaver), Garry Houghton (Flute, the Bellows Mender), Catherine Lloyd (Quince, the Carpenter), Roger Lloyd-Jones (Starveling, the Tailor), Huw Rose (Snout, the Tinker) and Ian Rowe (Snug, the Joiner).

The actors from the award-winning Poulton Drama are no strangers to the stage, having over 100 years of acting experience between them! Primary School teacher Anthony has been with Poulton Drama for five years and has previously featured in a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Ian and Roger have also been with the group for 5 years, but have been acting for 60 and 25 years respectively.

Head of Performing Arts and Media Studies at St Mary’s Catholic Academy, Cathy has performed with the amateur group since 2012. In the same year, Primary School teacher Huw was nominated for NODA’s Best Actor award for his performance in Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers, which appeared at the Grand Theatre for a week-long run. Garry has been with Poulton Drama for 4 years but has been acting for 18 and has previously starred in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice and The Taming of the Shrew.

The group will perform alongside a cast of 18 professional actors, and a professional creative team, led by RSC Deputy Artistic Director, Erica Whyman. Initially the amateur actors will rehearse in Blackpool, with their own amateur director, Tony Stone, also of Poulton Drama. They will then rehearse with the RSC team from January 2016.

Tony has been with Poulton Drama for nine years but he has been acting for 20.

Blackpool born, Tony now lives in Poulton-le-Fylde and has acted and directed an array of plays at the Grand Theatre.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A Play for the Nation will visit 12 theatres in each region and nation of the UK between 17 February and 4 June 2016, and will involve 14 different amateur theatre companies. In each theatre a different local amateur theatre company will play the Mechanicals*, and local school children will take part as Titania’s fairy train.

The production opens in Stratford-upon-Avon in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in February 2016. After the UK tour, it will return to Stratford-upon-Avon in June 2016, and each of the 14 amateur companies, including Poulton Drama, will reprise their roles on the Royal Shakespeare Theatre stage.

Erica Whyman, RSC Deputy Artistic Director, and director of A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A Play for the Nation, said:
“I am absolutely thrilled to be directing A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A Play For the Nation, as part of the RSC’s plans to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death in 2016. The experience of casting our amateur actors all around the UK has been inspiring and humbling.  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! 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.  I think it will be a real treat for audiences everywhere to see Shakespeare’s most magical play with a properly local flavour.”

Talking specifically of Poulton Drama, Erica added:
“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 hardworking group with an endearing humility, they are perfect casting for The Mechanicals. They are people for whom theatre is evidently a life-affirming joy!”

Tony Stone, Poulton Drama said
“This has already been the ultimate experience for both myself as director and the very hardworking 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 later in the year.”

The BBC will be capturing all of the action in ‘The Best Bottoms In the Land’ (Title TBC), which will follow the RSC’s journey as they put on the production with both amateur and professional actors during the tour.
Overseen by BBC Birmingham, nine regional programmes will be produced by the BBC English Regions teams. The 30 minute documentaries will show the pressures and pitfalls of such a project, culminating in the opening night of each region’s local performance.

‘The Best Bottoms in the Land’ will follow individual stories from around the country and will air in spring 2016 on BBC One.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A Play for the Nation is a co-production between the Royal Shakespeare Company and amateur theatre companies across the UK. This is an arrangement developed between the RSC and Equity.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A Play for the Nation is supported by Arts Council England Cross-Border Touring Fund