Staging and Subverting Nostalgia: Dawn French’s Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2001)



When Matthew Francis announced in 2001 that he had cast the popular television star Dawn French as Bottom in his new production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Albery Theatre, he was clearly drawing on the recent history of female-to-male cross-gender casting. Yet he also made a number of choices that differentiated his production from its predecessors. First, he changed the gender of French’s character from male to female: Bottom the weaver became Mrs. Bottom the housewife. Second, he also changed the genders of four of the “rude mechanicals” (3.2.9): Quince, Starveling, Snout, and Snug were all played by actresses. Third, he came up with an elaborate production concept to go with the gender-swapping: the human world of the play was transposed to World War II-era Britain, and the mechanicals became members of the Women’s Voluntary Service. Finally, he and his designer, Lez Brotherston, created a romantic, beautifully detailed forest for the fairy world that recalled the spectacular Victorian stagings of the play The result was a production that was far more conventional than those of Warner, Kaut-Howson, and Udovicki.


Human World Country House Forest Setting Chest Hair Popular Memory 
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© Elizabeth Klett 2009

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