As part of the Into The Woods Festival, the Groundlings Theatre is performing a trilogy of shows – The Jungle Book, a rock musical version of The Darling Buds Of May and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which begins on Thursday May 7 and runs until Saturday, May 16.
The star of the festival is Steve Arnold of Coronation Street fame, who played Shere Khan in The Jungle Book and will star as Pop Larkin and Bottom in the upcoming shows.
He says: ‘I was quite excited about it bcause I have never done three plays on the bounce, where you are learning one in the day while you perform the other at night.
‘But it is three totally different parts to play, which has been a lovely challenge.
‘Shere Khan was quite evil and sinister, whereas Pop Larkin is a father figure who looks after his family and would give anyone his last breath.
‘Bottom is a comedian through and through. He is a loveable character – he is one of those types that want to be the star of the show.’
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, written by William Shakespeare between 1590 and 1596, is one of the most popular of his comedies.
The play consists of three interconnecting plots – the adventures of four young Athenian lovers, a group of amateur actors, and the fairies who inhabit the forest in which most of the play is set.
They are connected by a celebration of the wedding of Duke Theseus of Athens and the Amazon queen Hippolyta under the light of the moon.
This is Steve’s first foray into Shakespeare, but he says that he has enjoyed finding the character.
‘The thing with TV is you fill yourself up with lines, go on set and film and try and just evaporate them from your mind afterwards, but with theatre you need to learn the lines and keep them there.
‘Plus, with Coronation Street I only had one character, whereas here I have three that I need to know inside out before I go onstage.’
The Groundlings performance space has been transformed into a forest for the festival. Audience members sit among the action.
‘I love working in front of audiences, and the Groundlings is really intimate. The audience are sat right next to us, you can hear them breathing,’ says Steve.
Tickets for A Midsummer Night’s Dream: £10-14, visit groundlings.co.uk or call (023) 9273 7370.