Away with the Queen of the Fairies
This summer Ballet Cymru will be gracing the festival with their interpretation of Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ is one of Shakespeare’s most well-loved plays, featuring something for everyone, fairies, love-triangles and bad actors transformed into donkeys. As a result of its magical content it allows for fantastical, spectacular interpretations. The play itself has several interconnected plots, that of Titania and Oberon, the four lovers and ‘the mechanicals’ all of which take place in the days leading up to the marriage of Hippolyta and Theseus.
The play has undergone many transformations and was recently adapted by Russel T. Davies for the BBC to celebrate the anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth. Most interesting in these reinterpretations and adaptations is the way in which the character of Titania is portrayed. Titania, queen of the fairies, begins the play estranged from her husband, as she refuses to hand over her adopted child to him. Titania’s husband Oberon has his underling Puck drug Titania with a love potion. This potion causes her to fall in love with the donkey-headed Bottom, during which Oberon steals the child from her. Tatania has often been viewed, in her role as queen of the fairies, and her susceptibility to Puck’s love potion as the embodiment of female beauty and fragility, ultimately submissive to Oberon.
However, Titania is not one to be crossed. In Edmund Spenser’s ‘The Faerie Queen’ the titular queen in question (an allegory for Elizabeth I) is directly related to Titania. This is evidence of the view of Titania as a strong, independent ruler. Davies also sought to show Titania in this light in his recent adaptation, which saw Titania equipped with a shield and armor, and ended with her freed from Oberon and reunited with her long-lost love Hippolyta.
In The Globe’s most recent production by Emma Rice Titania was even played by cabaret and burlesque performer Meow Meow, which saw her lose ‘her clothes, her inhibitions and her dignity’ throughout the play. Ultimately, this casting allowed the opportunity to show Tatania as character of strength and in control of her sexuality.
With this in mind, here at Festival HQ we’re excited to see how Ballet Cymru perform the most magical of plays and what kind of queen Titania is! Find out more about Ballet Cymru’s performance here!