“I have had a most rare vision. I have had a dream, past the wit of man to say what dream it was.”
—William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Bristol Old Vic, in association with Handspring Puppet Company, will present the American premiere of their production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream during the 2013 season of Spoleto Festival USA. The production is director Tom Morris’ first collaboration with Handspring since their Tony Award-winning WarHorse, and the result promises to be spectacular. We are tracking the progress of this remarkable show, from development and rehearsals, to its world premiere in Bristol, its arrival in Charleston in May, and through its Festival run.

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The reviews are in!

After months of collaboration, planning, building, and rehearsals, the Bristol Old Vic/Handspring Puppet Company production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream had its world premiere in Bristol last month. The Festival’s General Director, Nigel Redden, attended an early performance and was excited to share his impressions with the rest of us.

“I was expecting an inventive, delightful production,” Nigel said, “but the performance exceeded my expectations. Puppets and actors work seamlessly together to bring life to the puppets and expand the emotional and physical possibilities of the actors. Puck, for example, is a collection of what seem like odds and ends that are manipulated by three actors so that his shape shifts constantly.”

The production foregoes period costumes and traditional staging for a simple landscape, rugged contemporary clothing, and more than twenty handcrafted puppets—from tiny hand-held birds to enormous masks and disembodied limbs, and from featureless animated planks of wood to intricately carved and painted figures.

Handspring’s puppet designers Adrian Kohler and Basil Jones worked closely with director Tom Morris and set designer Vicki Mortimer to create a “future primitive” world where objects from an advanced—but long forgotten—technology are sometimes stolen and inhabited by fairies. Some of the set will be shipped from the UK for the Charleston performances, but many of the pieces will be built on-site by the Festival’s production team, making it the most complex of the Festival’s theatrical offerings this season.

Read other articles in this series:

Chapter One: The Dream is Dreamt
Chapter Two: No Strings Attached


For more information on this, and other, Festival shows, please browse the season overview.