PREVIEW: A Midsummer Night’s Mischief, York Theatre Royal Studio

EVERYTHING is kicking off in the forest as the fairies start a fight, but which side will you be on in the York Theatre Royal Studio on Friday and Saturday? Team Titania or Team Oberon?

Be prepared for York company Hoglets Theatre’s interactive, fun, larger-than-life production for young children - ideally aged two to nine, but everyone is welcome - spun around Shakespeare’s daftest romantic comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Expect wild characters, raucous singalong songs with lyrics by Andy Curry and Lara Pattison, puppets, stunts and some frankly ridiculous disco dancing from director/writer Gemma Curry and fellow cast members Claire Morley and Becky Lennon.

Costumes by Julia Smith, set design by Andy Curry and choreography by Charlotte Wood - who appeared in earlier performances - all add to the magic of Hoglets Theatre’s tenth show, one that requires no previous experience of Shakespeare.

“It’s the most accessible of his plays - with fairies in it - and definitely the easiest to get into,” says Gemma.

“We first did it five years ago with Lara Stafford, Rachel Wilkinson and me - all of us with two-year-old children at the time! - and children would hear the name ‘Bottom’ and laugh, and we thought, ‘oh yes, we’ve got it with this one’!

“We always have so much fun when we do it; for a morning or an afternoon, I can pretend to be a fairy, not a grown-up!”

Each performance starts with the cast - in this instance Curry, Morley and Lennon - covering their fairy wings in the cloaked guise of Macbeth’s three Witches, arguing over which play they should do.

“One says ‘Macbeth’, one says ‘Hamlet’, one says ‘A Winter’s Tale’,” Gemma says.

“They have this huge argument and then decide that Shakespeare should decide via a version of [The Human League’s] Don’t You Want Me Baby?, changing the lyrics to take in all of Shakespeare’s plays as they perform in coats, wigs, moustaches and bald caps.

“The last words to the song are Midsummer Night’s Dream, so we decide to do that one.

“Then we ask, ‘do you want to be involved?’, and that’s gone really well, apart from in Skipton, where this older chap ended up having to do all the roles!”

Curry, Morley and Lennon take on the role of three of Shakespeare’s four fairies in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Mustardseed, Moth and Peaseblossom, who will spilt the audience down the middle to take sides as Team Titania (Queen of the Fairies in Shakespeare’s play) and Team Oberon (King of the Fairies).

“In the years we’ve done the show, Peaseblossom was done originally by Lara Pattison, then by Charlotte Wood, and now in comes Becky, and it’s lovely how everyone brings their own personality to it,” says Gemma.

“We change characters with the change of a hat, so whoever wears Titania’s hat is Titania; the same for Puck.

“We skim over the young lovers, but we do have a little song about who loves whom that gets quicker and quicker, sillier and sillier, and becomes more and more exhausting for us.”

Hoglets Theatre’s show revels in Puck’s final speech in Shakespeare’s play - “If we shadows have offended, think but this, and all is mended” - in the lead-up to a variation on Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off.

“We do it as Shake A Spear with a disco ball and flashing lights, and the children love it,” says Gemma.

Children have plenty of opportunities to be involved, inviting them to play the four lovers, four fairies and four ‘mechanicals’ towards the end.

“So many schools don’t do music or drama now or don’t have a creative outlet, so it’s lovely to involve them,” she says.

Away from her Hoglets productions, Gemma is working on a project in tandem with York Theatre Royal on the theme of children’s mental health, developing a piece called The Girl Who Stole Smiles.

“The Arts Council has turned us down for funding three times, so we’re now working on other avenues,” she says.

Charles Hutchinson

Hoglets Theatre in A Midsummer Night’s Mischief, York Theatre Royal Studio, Friday, March 8, 4.30pm and Saturday, March 9, 10.30am. Box office: 01904 623568 or