When fairies, elves and clowns fall in love

If William Shakespeare was asked, he would surely say that his comic masterpiece, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, could only be improved by the addition of a travelling circus!

When fairies, elves and clowns fall in love

Director of ASPIRE, Anna Kerrigan, in adapting the play for this year’s production, has come up with a version that is respectful of the original but contemporary enough to captivate the ASPIRE cast of 95 students and its audience. They range across Years 5-12, and come from 26 Catholic schools. 


“Titania and Oberon speak in Shakespearean language, because as the king and queen they’re on another plane, but the other characters use the vernacular, with Puck sometimes acting as unofficial translator,” said Anna.


The research Anna undertook to adapt the play included visiting several diocesan schools to work with drama classes and invite feedback on her drafts. This means that the finished work, A Night in the Forest, includes significant investment not only from the cast, musicians and audience, but diocesan drama teachers and students as well. 


It’s important to know that the delicious confusion and fun that is A Midsummer Night’s Dream will be integral to the production, and there is much to engage actors and audience. Stage combat, puppetry, music and dance, as well as beautiful language and the enthusiasm of youth, are all on the bill – and a travelling circus!


Why A Midsummer Night’s Dream? “I love the play!” said Anna. “It’s quite easy for young people to grasp the story, but complex enough to be interesting. It’s comedy, it’s quite different from last year’s production, Treasured, and in terms of adaptation, all those elves and fairies offer plenty of scope to suit a large cast.”


Anna Kerrigan’s mining her professional acting experience in the UK, mainly in repertory theatre, in her work with the ASPIRE ensemble. She moved from being on stage to directing and mentoring and perhaps most satisfyingly, “making theatre with young people.


 “Their lives are so caught up in film and TV and the internet – in screens – whereas theatre’s right there, it’s so immersive and it’s different every time. I take my two-year-old to the Opera House!”


While not everyone can be part of ASPIRE, or study drama at school or in the community, Anna is a firm believer in the value of live theatre for everyone. “Theatre is the best form of expression, it just allows you to get up and have a go. I love theatre because there’s no right or wrong, it’s about ideas and building on other people’s ideas and young people are so good at that.”


To see Anna and her ensemble cast’s vision played out, why not spend a night in the forest? Then you will understand the integral role of the travelling circus in A Midsummer Night’s Dream!



ASPIRE is the flagship of the performing arts in schools of the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle. It’s audition-based, involving actors, musicians, vocalists and dancers and culminates in a professionally staged performance in the Civic Theatre, Newcastle. ASPIRE offers holiday workshops and classroom experiences, as well as the intense coaching that leads to the annual performance.


To learn more, read Anna’s ASPIRE blog. Book tickets online, at the Civic Theatre Box Office, any Ticketek outlet or P 4929 1977. Performances are on Thursday 24, Friday 25 and Saturday 26 July.



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