Director Tatty Hennessy: ‘We’re bringing Shakespeare right into the heart of communities’
Tatty Hennessy’s credits as a writer include A Hundred Words for Snow, which premiered at London’s Vault Festival before transferring to Trafalgar Studios, while her directing credits include Maud Dromgoole’s play Mary’s Babies at Jermyn Street Theatre. She talks to Giverny Masso about directing A Midsummer Night’s Dream with theatre company Shakespeare in the Squares…
What do you do with Shakespeare in the Squares?
This is my third time working with Shakespeare in the Squares. Having done Romeo and Juliet and As You Like It, this year we’re doing A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It’s been great because it’s my third year, but only the company’s fourth year, so it’s been lovely to be involved from the beginning and watch it grow. Lots of people do outdoor Shakespeare productions, but not many companies take work right into the heart of communities. We’re performing in parks and gardens that have a neighbourhood feel to them.
How are you approaching A Midsummer Night’s Dream?
We’re setting it in the 1920s, with a circus-inspired magic forest. This is a world that has just come out of war and everyone’s looking to escape and distract themselves. We fill it with songs and dances. It should be as clear and accessible as possible. We assume the 14-year-old child at the back has never seen Shakespeare, and we’re trying to make it clear and exciting for them and for everybody.
What other experiences have you had directing Shakespeare?
I worked with a company called Merely Theatre, with Scott Ellis, and I worked for a long time as an assistant at Shakespeare’s Globe. I learned everything I know about Shakespeare from working there. I was assistant director for the tour of Dominic Dromgoole’s Hamlet, which went to nearly every country in the world. Nothing quite prepares you for directing Shakespeare like having to redirect stuff very quickly on beaches and in town halls.
How did you get into theatre?
I’ve been writing for longer than I can remember, I was able to do the Gate Theatre’s young writers programme when I was 14, which was my first experience backstage in a proper theatre. It was amazing to go in as a teenage writer and to be taken seriously by an institution like that. Then I did the Royal Court Young Writers programme when I was 17, which pushed me. I got a break as an intern at Shakespeare’s Globe after I left university, and I worked there in various capacities for a long time before going to LAMDA to do the directing course. It sounds very ordered, as if it has a clear narrative, when you describe it from this end, but at the time it didn’t – it felt very chaotic.
What other projects are you working on?
I’m writing a play for the National Youth Theatre, for the Edinburgh Fringe, called F Off. It’s about Facebook, the data protection scandal, young people and social media. I’m also developing a play with music at the moment called Scum, which is about the underground punk rock scene in Cuba in the 1990s.
CV Tatty Hennessy
Training: Royal Court Young Writers Programme (2007); Postgraduate diploma in directing at LAMDA (2012-13)
First professional role: Festival assistant at Shakespeare’s Globe (2011-12)
Agent: Alexandra Cory at Berlin Associates
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is touring until July 11. Go to: shakespeareinthesquares.co.uk for more information
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