8 December 2016 / Events

‘A Stranger Pyramus than e’er Played Here’: Transformations and Translations in A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Presented by Prof. Trevor R. Griffiths

When Shakespeare created his aspiring team of would-be actors in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, he effectively granted generations of professional actors a licence to make and remake his characters into a running commentary on the practicalities of theatre production. Actors and directors have delighted in the opportunities for a wide range of coarse acting/coarse stage business provided by the casting, rehearsal and production of ‘Pyramus and Thisbe’. For example, Bottoms have sung ‘I am dead’ like an Italian tenor, and have been reminiscent of Fred Trueman in his pomp, or of Frank Bruno. They have recalled Benny Hill, Donald Wolfit, Tyrone Guthrie, John Dexter, and Laurence Olivier. They have been aldermanic, Ayckbournesque, Larkinesque, a bemused walrus, an amateur dramatic society bore, and a Brando-smitten narcissist. This illustrated lecture will explore these and other examples of how the theatre has risen to Shakespeare’s challenge, including such questions as how to deal with the asshead and how good the amateur actors are supposed to be, examining the concepts underlying particular production decisions and their theatrical impact.

Trevor R. Griffiths is the Co-ordinating Editor of Theatre Notebook and a Vice Chairman of the Society for Theatre Research. An Honorary Visiting Professor in Humanities at the University of Exeter, he taught at the University of Strathclyde and what is now London Metropolitan University. He has published on many aspects of theatre history and theatre practice, including books on A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Tempest and British and Irish Women Dramatists Since 1958.


8 December 2016




The Art Workers' Guild, Queen Square, London WC1N 3AT, UK