The Fairy Queen (2005)
Many people have said that 2005 next play, The Fairy Queen, reminded them of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. Our play, though a quite different story, is similar in three respects. Firstly, it uses four of Shakespeare’s characters, or rather characters which he borrowed from earlier plays and stories, Titania, Oberon, Theseus and Hippolyta, and plays out the love affairs referred to in the ‘Ill met by moonlight’ sequence. Secondly, it is a commedia dell’arte genre called boscareccia, which Shakespeare may have been aware of through Ovid’s Metamorphosis, but in any case fitted very nicely with his knowledge of English folklore. Thirdly, in The Fairy Queen we used verse extensively for the first time.
Boscareccia – The boscareccia are farces set in woodland and have mythical creatures as characters. In the commedia tradition they were often satyrs; in our tradition they are fairies. All our fairies – the pillywiggins, the boggarts, the ballybogs and the Gilly Doo, are or were once part of the mythology of British and Irish culture (as was of course Puck) and, although you may not have heard of them in this modern world, they were there once and their names still suggest our simpler past and happily live in the imagination of children. Primarily this is because we still yearn for a close and animistic association with nature. So our play, like ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, is a piece of boscareccia.
Its structure apart from the context of the woodland is identical to the ‘Italian household’ structure of traditional commedia dell’arte with Oberon now, not a powerful handsome hero, but a Pantalone-like mean, miserable and sexually inadequate vecchio and Titania a strong Signora, but in our case with an aching heart and sense of regret at a husband’s cruelty, which slightly departs from the tradition, but why shouldn’t we?