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

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Abstract

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.

Keywords

Human World Country House Forest Setting Chest Hair Popular Memory 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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© Elizabeth Klett 2009

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