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Cast’s Creative Audio Description a First for RSC



The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) serves up an energetic, compelling production of The Bard’s most popular and beloved comedies, A Midsummer Night's Dream.


Directed by Eleanor Rhode, the play follows the romantic entanglements of four young Athenians: Hermia (Dawn Sievewright), Lysander (Ryan Hutton), Helena (Boadicea Ricketts, and Demetrius (Nicholas Armfield), whose lives are intertwined with a group of amateur actors, orchestrated by fairies Oberon (Bally Gill) and Puck (played superbly by understudy Premi Tamang).


Through a series of enchantments and mistaken identities, chaos of course ensues.

This is indeed a magical experience for the audience, with illusion, video projection, sound and lighting bringing mesmerising life to an otherwise barren stage.


Scenes are subtly embellished with all manner of floating fairies, glowing orbs, and disappearing characters, which range from sleight of hand trickery to astonishing technical illusions.


And in a first for the RSC, the cast perform Creative Audio Description, live from the stage wings at every performance, to give blind and partially sighted audiences a better theatrical experience.


“I’ve worked in theatres, so I know how much effort is spent on every detail, but, as far as I know, most directors don’t listen to the audio descriptions – it’s not seen as creative,” explained audio description consultant Benjamin Wilson, who lost his sight just after graduating from drama school.


“This lit a fire underneath me to try and approach audio description as an embedded part of a show.


“Shakespeare is naturally great at creating audio description. No one ever enters a stage without another character saying, ‘This person has entered!’, or draws a sword without saying ‘I’m drawing my sword!’. We’ve just added aural texture to fill in the gaps.”


Listening through a headset to the cast off-stage, describing and setting the mood for what is happening on-stage, you get to experience the more moving, beautiful and comic moments of one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays.


You get to hear a fairy, or a mechanical, describing what’s happening in a way that is funny, or romantic, dramatic or scary.


When this type of access work becomes the norm, then real change will happen.


There are strong performances throughout, but Matthew Baynton as Bottom (pictured above with Sirine Saba who plays Titania) is inspired. Best known for starring in BBCs Ghosts, he brings a superb energy and comedic timing to the role.


All performances of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which runs at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, until March 30, are Creatively Audio Described. For full access information and to book go to https://www.rsc.org.uk/whats-on/


Picture Credit: Pamela Raith (c) RSC

 

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