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Actors on stage in A Midsummer Night's Dream, one wearing a creature costume with a moustache.

AUB Productions’ 2024 season closes with Shakespearean favourite

Photos by Andy Beeson

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AUB Productions brought its 2024 show season to an end at the Palace Court Theatre with William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

BA (Hons) Acting students from Arts University Bournemouth (AUB) were directed by Aileen Gonsalves, who has directed A Midsummer Night’s Dream more than 30 times in her career.

“Students in their final year on the Acting course were able to build on their previous Shakespeare training by immersing themselves in the Gonsalves method,” explains Craig Norman, Senior Lecturer on BA (Hons) Acting at AUB.

“By working with this fresh approach to performing with Aileen Gonsalves herself, actors developed their skills and experience by applying a new and exciting methodology to one of Shakespeare’s most well-loved plays.”

Inspired by American practitioner Meisner, the Gonsalves Method embraces truthful performance to increase actors’ authentic connection with the audience. It’s all about responsiveness and being in the moment.

“The plays are created by the people I have in the room,” says Aileen. “The way people normally learn lines is how they think they’ll say them on stage, but following my method, they can be more responsive.”

Other AUB productions that Aileen has directed include the all-female version of Much Ado About Nothing, set in the 1940s with wives at a Women’s Institute performing the play for their husbands returning from war, and last year’s reality TV-inspired Strictly Twelfth Night!

“The reason I return year after year to work with AUB students is they’re so receptive to my method,” Aileen explains. “They love it because it’s new, but it can also be unnerving as it’s different. This year, the students have been particularly wonderful and excellent at supporting each other.”

Playing romantic lead Lysander, BA (Hons) Acting student Charlie Sibley describes the challenges of playing against type:

“I’m used to playing big, villain-type characters, due to me being quite tall. So the opportunity to play a lover has been beyond valuable for me.

“In terms of the play’s fame, it was a challenge to play Lysander, and to make him my own. However, using the Gonsalves Method, and what I’ve learned in my time at uni, I managed to create a character I was proud of.”

Fellow student Shayla Elliott-Lee played the iconic role of Bottom, which she also describes as challenging.

“It’s been so much fun exploring Aileen’s method with the cast bouncing off each other,” Shayla explains. “But, of course, also a challenge having to delve into so many different emotions, and step out of my comfort zone with methods I usually use when approaching a character.”

“Seeing my relationships grow with my scene partners has been so exciting to see,” adds Lou Reader, portraying Oberon. “Through my scenes with fellow partners such as Puck and Titania, we have created true bonds strengthening the connection we portray on stage.

“The new method pushed me as an actor in ways I never expected.”

One of the most striking parts of this show was the set, including a massive tree, designed by BA (Hons) Performance Design and Film Costume (PDFC) student Phoebe Morritt.

“When initially designing the set, I chose to have a tree as a focal point of the stage,” Phoebe explains.

“After my set design was selected, I had discussions with Aileen, who suggested the tree could be utilised by the characters. My next design included a spiral staircase inside a more broken-down tree structure. But once the structure went to Elliot Road to be built, it was discussed and developed and we built a staircase with various levels instead, which allowed the tree to become a much more exciting and utilised piece of set.

“My favourite part of designing this was being able to be so creative and free with dressing the set. I loved adding in leaves and flowers, which made the tree feel even more magical and inviting. Since it is a fantasy world, there were no limitations, we were able to have so much fun and even add in these hidden human faces into the tree.”

Phoebe praised her fellow PDFC students for their work on the set building, including scenic supervisor and assistant designer Hollie Leonard, props supervisor Derin Uyguner, and projection designer Dora Voros.

“It has been a wonderful opportunity getting to design for an AUB production and especially such a loved story like A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” says Phoebe. “It was great to learn how sets are built and all the teamwork from different departments that goes into it.”

AUB Productions shows are a collaborative effort between students on several of our courses, including BA (Hons) Acting, Costume, Make-up for Media and Performance, and Performance Design and Film Costume.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream ran at Palace Court Theatre in Bournemouth town centre from 30 May – 1 June.

As it continues its ambitious refurbishment, the Palace Court will be running some open site events on 2 July and 5 July to invite local creatives into the space.

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