Award-winning director Guy Unsworth is back to direct 2023's Shakespeare in the Park
Shakespeare in the Park is back with the Bard’s most popular and all-time favourite comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream with award-winning director, Guy Unsworth (Hand to God, Shakespeare in the Park – Julius Caesar) spinning his magic on this stellar production. We tracked down the highly sought-after Guy Unsworth (currently in LA) for this interview.
You directed Hand to God (2017) and Shakespeare In The Park – Julius Caesar (2018). This year, you will be back to direct Shakespeare In The Park - A Midsummer Night's Dream. What draws you to these projects with SRT?
Guy: I love working in Singapore. It’s much warmer than the UK! However, the real reason is that I love creating work for this audience and with the fantastic actors that Singapore has to offer. SRT’s Shakespeare in the Park also offers a chance to be ambitious with staging in a venue like no other, which in itself is a wonderful experience.
Shakespeare in the Park – Julius Caesar, 2018
Where or how did you get your creative vision for Shakespeare In the Park - A Midsummer Night's Dream?
Guy: Our original plan was to do Midsummer in 2021 so we planned a production not knowing that a pandemic was around the corner. After postponing the production and getting past the worst of Covid we felt society was in a very different place and this called for something different on stage. I felt a stronger need to celebrate the true themes of the play - love, togetherness, and fun. We need this more than before, we appreciate it more than before, so to create something which would celebrate the very thing it is: a piece of live entertainment which brings people together and celebrates love and life, released the entire production. I feel confident about the vibe I want to create, and I hope that audiences receive that atmosphere on the other side.
What is your biggest challenge directing this play in Singapore?
Guy: I love to turn challenges into opportunities, so this is a tricky question to answer on face value. The first big challenge we encountered, was to consider that we’re creating a production in nature (the park), which has some scenes set in nature but also some scenes not. I therefore knew we had to think beyond what the literal forest meant. As a result, in conjunction with my set designer, Richard Kent, we considered the play to be split more abstractly between the real world and the dream world. Despite being a challenge initially, this actually unlocked a lot of the play’s meaning, especially to consider the real world to be the polar opposite of the natural world, a place of manmade industry.
Secondly, many productions of Shakespeare in the UK are playing to audiences who have seen the plays 3 or 4 times. This assumes a certain level of knowledge of the play and works with that knowledge. In Singapore, however, I'm directing the show for many people who have never seen it before. People who may not be steeped in Shakespeare and will find it difficult to understand if the story isn’t told clearly. But to turn that into an opportunity, it allows me to tell the story a fresh, to really find ways to make the comedy land 430 years on, or the verse to feel magical, not because we’ve heard and studied it before, but because it is wonderful to hear and see for the first time.
Why should people come to watch Shakespeare In The Park - A Midsummer Night's Dream?
Guy: This is one of Shakespeare’s most entertaining plays and it’s also one of the easiest to understand. It’s also a celebration of love and togetherness so makes for the perfect production to enjoy under the stars in Fort Canning Park. Audiences can expect great music, sets, costumes and acting with some theatrical surprises they wouldn’t see inside a theatre. A perfect date, or night out with friends.
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