Next week sees the Epstein Theatre stage its first Shakespeare production, an “immersive” version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Actor and director Danny Taylor (pictured above) has worked prolifically across the city in the last couple of years, taking the titular leads in popular touring productions The Tommy Cooper Show and Lennon Through a Glass Onion among other roles. It’s been something of a homecoming, after years in the West End and touring in Blood Brothers.
The aforementioned city shows reacquainted Taylor with the Epstein, a theatre, it turned out, where his own grandad – a policeman by profession – once staged plays.
Now his own company, Daniel Taylor Productions, is bringing the first taste of the Bard to the venue with an accessible adaptation he hopes will appeal to audiences of all kinds.
Their Dream has brought together a wealth of talent and experience – largely from the Liverpool area or trained here, and, like Danny, with plenty of West End and musical theatre chops.
“I have always been taken with A Midsummer Night’s Dream and wanted to do something immersive,” Danny says. “It’s the perfect play for breaking the fourth wall and have action happening all around. The Epstein feels like you’re in a palace, so that’s definitely a good start. It is a great way to make use of what is a gem of a Liverpool theatre.”
The cast includes company co-founder Sharon Byatt (Mrs Johnstone, Blood Brothers, Coronation Street and Bread) as Titania, Chloe Taylor (a former Glinda in Wicked) as Helena, Johnny Schumacher (Royal Shakespeare Company) as Oberon, James Templeton (Jesus Christ Superstar) playing Puck, Tim Lucas (Legally Blonde) as Flute and Sam Donovan (‘Erics,’ Liverpool Everyman) as Lysander. Danny himself plays the character of Bottom.
It’s an ensemble He is clearly proud of, and a project that has benefitted from his irrepressible energy.
“It’s a fantastic cast and I think we’ve put together a team of people at the top of their game,” he enthuses.
The text has been abridged, running to a concise two hours, by Southport playwright Helen Jeffrey.
“We wanted to make it accessible, tell the story but not lose the magic of Shakespeare’s words,” says Helen.
She and Danny have been friends since their time at Clwyd Youth Theatre, and most recently worked together on her play The Brink, which explored the issue of post natal mental health and was performed at the Unity last year.
“You do feel a sense of responsibility when adapting such a well-loved play, but I always think Shakespeare would be quite happy for the work to be adapted and changed to suit. Hopefully we have kept the essence of the story, but added something new to it.”
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is on at the Epstein from April 25 to 29. For more information, including details of Q&As and school workshops, visit their website.