Sir Trevor Nunn experiences a personal Midsummer Night’s Dream with his ‘emotional’ return to Ipswich
Suffolk-born theatre legend Sir Trevor Nunn realises a lifelong ambition when he opens A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the New Wolsey Theatre tonight. In an exclusive interview, he tells arts editor Andrew Clarke about the joys of coming home
Suffolk theatre knight, Sir Trevor Nunn, has described his return to his home town and the New Wolsey Theatre as a “wonderful, rather emotional homecoming.”
Sir Trevor, former artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal National Theatre, and director of West End mega-musicals Les Miserables and Cats is back in Ipswich staging a production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
It’s the show which completes Sir Trevor’s Shakespeare’s set. Bizarrely it’s a show that he has never directed before and with this innovative ‘Indian Raj’ take on Shakespeare’s famous comedy, he has now staged all 37 plays so far credited to The Bard.
Sir Trevor has directed three Shakespeare plays so far this year – Pericles, King John and now A Midsummer Night’s Dream – all three were missing from his directorial credits, but he said that it was important that A Midsummer Night’s Dream was the final piece in his theatrical jigsaw and that he staged the production in Ipswich.
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Talking to Sir Trevor it’s clear that he retains his love of Shakespeare, theatre and his home town. His eyes sparkle as he talks in a fast enthusiastic manner about his personal journey back to his theatrical roots.
He said: “A Midsummer Night’s Dream was the very first Shakespeare I ever saw and it made a huge impression on me. I saw a remarkably good school production at Northgate when I was 12 and I was transported to another place. I, not only found it incredibly funny, but I understood what was going on. It was responsible for my life-long love of Shakespeare.
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“So it was only fitting that I do The Dream in Ipswich, because as Shakespeare says, the wheel has come full circle and because I love the Wolsey. It is one of the most perfect theatres in England for staging a medium scale Shakespeare because of the shape of the stage and the way it thrusts out into the auditorium.
“It felt like absolutely the right thing to do. I am so happy, I can’t tell you how much, to be able to do the play here. I have been back to Ipswich countless times over the years, but working here once again (he previously directed a production of the musical The Baker’s Wife at the Wolsey in 1989) I have taken the opportunity to revisit all the places of my childhood, met up with old school friends and family. It has just been marvellous. It’s been a wonderful, rather emotional homecoming.”
He adds that this sense of his past catching up with him has been magnified by the fact that his current company of actors have been rehearsing in the old High Street Exhibition Gallery next to Ipswich Museum where, at the age of 16, he fearlessly directed Hamlet – his first Shakespeare production.
He added: “Walking in there, fully taking in the proscenium, the original floor, the height and depth of the stage, it was chokingly emotional – rather like being haunted by old ghosts. It was wonderful to be back where I had first done a Shakespeare play.”
And so, what else is there left for him to do?
He said: “While it’s true that I have now done 37 out of 37 Shakespeare plays, Some plays I have done four times, others twice and several only once. There are many Shakespeare plays I would love to revisit and do again. I could not bear not doing another Shakespeare. I would love to revisit many plays and come at them from a different direction.
“I also love to do Shakespeare work with young people. I have done two or three Shakespeare workshops with young groups and there is something very stimulating about working with energised youngsters.”
However, with A Midsummer Night’s Dream up and running, Sir Trevor’s packed diary calls and on Friday he flies to New York to re-direct the revival of Cats on Broadway.
“That’s what’s marvellous about theatre, on Monday you’re in Ipswich putting the finishing touches to Shakespeare, by Friday you’re in New York starting work on Cats,” he said.
Then he’s off to Vienna to work with Baker’s Wife and Wicked composer Stephen Schwartz on a new production and he’s also trying to make time to finish a book. Is it going to be a autobiography?
“Not really,” he said. “It’s autobiographical, but it’s not going to be my life story, more of a series of theatrical stories.”
So more like David Niven’s The Moon’s A Balloon? Sir Trevor breaks into joyous laughter: “Wouldn’t that be lovely. Gosh, David Niven what a superb storyteller. Sadly I don’t think my writing will be as effortless as that but it’s a nice thought.”
Part two of this interview with Sir Trevor Nunn will appear in Friday’s EADT as Sir Trevor talks about the genius of Shakespeare and how the playwright was “a great people-watcher”.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is running at The New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich, until July 9.