A Midsummer Night’s Blog

Anglotopia article (world wide web)

As the longest day of the year is almost upon us and with Stonehenge featuring on BBC television last night in the penultimate episode of Doctor Who (The Pandorica Opens); I was thinking about the mystery and magical hold Midsummer has on me and what it is about the longest day that has intrigued people for millennia.

Stonehenge (copyright English Heritage)

I have been fortunate enough to know as personal friends the current and previous Director of Stonehenge, I’ve even volunteered my help on Midsummer Night solstice celebrations at the iconic stone circle – helping to manage and support the thirty thousand plus people that feel compelled to be present at the moment the sun rises on the dawn of the longest day.

All three times I have been a volunteer at Stonehenge, it has involved me working through the night, managing what can only be described as ‘the cloakroom’ – storing and returning chattels and possessions that are either barred, banned or too large to be allowed into the crowded celebrations amongst the stones. I have seen some interesting and intriguing objects submitted into my care from one side of the solstice to the other but they pale into insignificance compared to the interesting and intriguing people I have seen amongst the crowds.

Stonehenge at Sunset – English Heritage

But to be honest, I don’t like being at Stonehenge on the solstice – it is loud, crowded and lacks the magical awe inspiring element the stones are capable of producing – I have been at Stonehenge at dawn (not on a Solstice) and it is a truly magical moment and genuinely enraptured me at the time, a sensation that is vacant for me when the circle is filled to bursting with people, many of them hell bent on ensuring that they will not be able to remember it the next morning.

For me my best memory of the Solstice occurred in a darkened theatre on an ordinary evening in September a couple of years ago, not a solstice night at all but a night at the theatre. Specifically the Royal Shakespeare Company production of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Courtyard Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon and it was awesome.

Joe Dixon (Bottom) and Andrea Harris (Titania) in A Midsummer Night’s Dream by the RSC. Photograph: Tristram Kenton

I was truly taken by the set design and the lighting was magical, the performances were enchanting, with the actors milking the laughter (of which there was lots), balancing the slapstick and humour, the fantasy and the fear of a place that has never been with the knowledge of places we are all familiar with in history and in the human psyche; it really struck a chord with the audience and with me, more than four hundred years after it was first written by William Shakespeare, which is itself fascinating.

The performance transported me away with the fairies only to place me back in my seat three hours later with a smile on my face and sore palms from clapping so hard; I had fallen in love with the mischievous forest fairies, empathised with a man who had the head of an Ass and the heart of an Ox, I was intrigued and engaged in the love square of Demetrius, Helena, Hermia and Lysander and wanted to know more about Oberon, Titania and Puck.

It is still my favourite Midsummer memory and will for me always be an unforgettable one.

If you would like to know about Doctor Who, A Midsummer Night’s Dream or Stonehenge, click on the links below to visit the appropriate web sites.

The BBC – Doctor Who

The RSC – A Midsummer Night’s Dream

English Heritage – Stonehenge

Enjoy the longest day of the year (shortest day in the Southern Hemisphere) however you may be celebrating it.

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About X-Wide P

Award winning advocate for art, heritage & culture; mild mannered front man of Relevant Elephant, finest purveyors of rock-steady hip-hop mambo
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2 Responses to A Midsummer Night’s Blog

  1. benmcnulty says:

    On this side of the pond, my exposure to Shakespeare is filtered through a Hollywood lens. I know the brilliant literature, but I have not seen the scene performed live. My admiration of your experience is all thanks to your ability to relate your view of the world with words. I appreciate your perspective, thank you for sharing it with us.

  2. loripop326 says:

    I have always wanted to see Stonehenge; to stand in the circle and experience a sunrise there. It’s one of the things on my bucket list. Of course, visiting Stratford-upon-Avon and seeing a Shakespeare play there is also on my bucket list… so really, you’ve written about two things that I’ve wanted to do for so long that it made me wistful to read about your having done so.

    Thank you for sharing your memories, Phil.
    Someday, I may get to live them myself, but for now, living them through you was lovely.

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