Boyd's vibrant production was full of sexual tension and imaginative designs by Tom Piper.

A man with donkey's ears is surrounded and caressed by women
Bottom (Daniel Ryan) is pampered by Mustardseed (Mary Duddy), Peaseblossom (Sirine Saba, arms raised), Titania (Josette Simon) and Cobweb (Kemi Baruwa), 1999, Royal Shakespeare Theatre
Photo by Donald Cooper © RSC Browse and license our images


In Michael Boyd's fullblooded production, the fairies were doppelgängers of the mortals with Theseus (Nicholas Jones) and Hippolyta (Josette Simon) morphing into Oberon and Titania, while Philostrate (Aidan McArdle) transformed into Puck. The transition from the cold bleak Athenian court to the dream forest was brilliantly realised.

The play opened "with Theseus’s courtiers dressed in fur hats and black overcoats standing respectively around in a circle on bare stage with a beige curved wall. Then poppies sprout from the wall and Aidan McArdle’s Philostrate, a bowler-hatted blend of mortician and Kafta clerk, is transformed into Puck, a lascivious, subversive mix of tramp and clown” Benedict Nightingale, The Times, 13 December 1999.

Philostrate and a female courtier literally ripped off one another's clothes to reveal Puck and Peaseblossom (Sirine Saba) underneath.


In this extract, designer Tom Piper explains how he approached the challenges of moving from the mortal to the fairy world:

"In my own version of the Dream, directed by Michael Boyd in 1999, we were looking for a way to move from the sterile cold world of humanity where it was snowing, into the exciting possibilities of change and transformation within the dream forest. As Bottom mimed firing an arrow to illustrate ‘hold or cut bow strings’ we fired a real arrow into the wall behind him. His imagination had become real. Then a series of red poppies were pushed up from beneath the stage, bringing nature and flashes of strong colour into what had been a closed and blank wooden space...The Flowers were the only natural element in our forest, we made no attempt to create real trees, instead we choose to make the space alive with possibilities as door and traps appeared everywhere
Nature in Theatre, the Enduring Influence of Brook, Tom Piper, 29 May 2015.

In the following gallery, you can see some of Tom's design sketches as well as production photos illustrating the staging.

Poster for A Midsummer Night



Royal Shakespeare Theatre

Rod Arthur - Tom Snout

Kemi Baruwa - Cobweb

Henry Ian Cusick - Demetrius

Andrew Dennis - Snug

Mary Duddy - Mustardseed

Ben Elliot - Fairy

Hermione Gulliford - Helena

David Hobbs - Robin Starveling

Nicholas Jones – Oberon, Theseus

Catherine Kanter - Hermia

Peter Kelly - Peter Quince

Rebecca Lenkiewicz - Moth

Aidan McArdle – Philostrate, Puck

Fergus O'Donnell - Lysander

Daniel Ryan - Nick Bottom

Sirine Saba - Peaseblossom

Josette Simon - Hippolyta, Titania

Farimang Singhateh - Fairy

Orlando Wells – Francis Flute

Geoffrey Whitehead - Egeus



Director - Michael Boyd

Designer - Tom Piper

Lighting - Chris Davey

Music - John Woolf

Movement - Liz Ranken

Fights - Terry King


The RSC's archive is held at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. You can visit the Library and Archives there to look at production related information, including photos, videos of shows and stage management documents:

Shakespeare Centre Library and Archive homepage

You can search the RSC catalogue here: 

RSC performance database

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