Almost sixty years ago, long before she became a Dame, Judi Dench appeared with the Royal Shakespeare Company as Titania in William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The director of that 1962 production was the RSC founder, Peter Hall – who later became Sir Peter Hall - and it heralded the start of their decade’s long theatrical relationship.
In 2006 Hall directed Dench in one of the many West End revivals of the 1925 Noel Coward classic, Hay Fever. Playing the role of Dench’s son in that production was a young Dan Stevens, who had come to the attention of Hall in a production of Macbeth at Cambridge University in 2002. Stevens played the title character, Hall’s daughter played Lady Macbeth.
A couple of years later, Hall cast Stevens in his first professional show, As You Like It. Stevens would, of course, go onto become an international star, playing the much loved Matthew Crawley in Downton Abbey.
In 2010 Dench reprised her role of Titania in a new West End production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, performed at the Rose Theatre and directed once again Hall. Sadly, Hall died from pneumonia in 2017 at the age of 86. Dench and Stevens have now been reunited in a movie remake of another Noel Coward play, Blithe Spirit. Directing the film is Edward Hall, the son of the man who was so influential in the lives of Dench and Stevens.
Blithe Spirit is a side-splitting comedy about an author who inadvertently revives the ghost of his first wife, much to the consternation of his second and current wife. Stevens plays the author, Charles, Dench plays the eccentric medium, Madame Arcati. The role of Arcati garnered Angela Lansbury a Tony award when she played it on Broadway in 2009. Jennifer Saunders – of Ab Fab fame – is currently playing Arcati in a West End production. Here is a trailer of the film, which opens in the U.K. in May:
If you are a fan of British theatre productions, the British Players will be presenting The Audience by Peter Morgan – the man who penned the hit television series, The Crown. In The Audience, Morgan imagines the private weekly audiences which took place between Queen Elizabeth II and each of her twelve Prime Ministers, from Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher to the 2015 incumbent David Cameron. The play performs at Kensington Town Hall from March 20 through April 4. For tickets and more information go to: www.britishplayers.org.
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