Preview: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Royal Lyceum

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ANYONE who saw Matthew Lenton’s production of The Beggar’s Opera at the Royal Lyceum in 2009 may recall it drew some extreme reactions from audiences and critics alike.

One star, two star, three, four and five-star ratings made it one of the most discussed pieces to come out of the Lyceum in years.

Next week Lenton returns, this time turning his attention to Shakespeare’s magical comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

He promises a bold and inventive new production so it’s safe to expect the unexpected, although there are a few familiar faces in the cast to mitigate any big shocks.

One familiar TV face making a return to the Lyceum is actor Ifan Meredith, who doubles as Oberon and Theseus in the bard’s tale of unrequited love.

Four young Athenian lovers flee to the forest where they fall foul of the fairies as Oberon, king of the fairies, Titania, his queen, and fantastical sprite, Puck, conjure a series of increasingly funny complications as the mortals try to find love with the right partners.

Set against a bitterly cold winter, despite its title, the piece has Meredith recalling a tale from the filming of the ITV series Titanic, in which he played Fifth Officer Lowe.

“Rehearsing for this production has reminded me of when we were filming Titanic in the middle of June in Budapest. We were in a big warehouse studio with a 35ft by 35ft water tank when it was actually roasting. I had to wear a wool uniform as part of the crew. All the first class ladies were dressed in fur coats. I have this image in my head to this day of Celia Imrie in her big fur coat and hat with a dog under each arm crossing from one lifeboat to another in this blistering heat while we had to pretend it was freezing.”

The actor, whose other credits include Midsomer Murders, Doctors and Holby City continues, “In this version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream all the seasons are out of kilter, and instead of it being summer the play is set in winter for the most part. As the lovers in the forest we are pretending to be cold again whilst sweltering under the heat of the lights.”

Meredith adds, “I love coming to Edinburgh. The last time I was on the Lyceum stage was four years ago in Living Quarters. I love the culture here and really enjoy all the bars and venues that play live traditional music.”

Laughing he says, “As it was February/March-time when I was last here I’m now used to the Edinburgh weather, indeed I’ve found it helpful in our wintery ‘Dream’ preparations.”

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Royal Lyceum, Grindlay Street, tomorrow-Nov 17, 7.45pm (2.30pm), £7.50-£29, 0131-248 4848