Friday, 21 April 2017

Daniel Taylor: "We Want The Audience To Forget That They're Watching Shakespeare"

Image Source: Twitter
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Provided By: Epstein Theatre

When you say "theatre", a lot of people, especially those of an older generation, will automatically think "Shakespeare". So, it's a surprise that the Epstein Theatre has yet to host a play written by the legendary English writer. But that's all about to change, as Daniel Taylor, manager of Daniel Taylor Productions, is bringing his adaptation of A Midsummer Night's Dream to the Epstein. We spoke to Daniel about the show and his own background, as well as his own connection with the works of the iconic playwright.

Firstly, tell us about A Midsummer Night's Dream.

I would say that it's Shakespeare's version of "sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll"; that's probably the best way of explaining it! It's about merriment, there's humour, it's farce, there's mis-identity; all of those things that Shakespeare would use so often in his plays, but I think these elements are best used in this story. It's a play about a Duke who is getting married, it's about four lovers who are all mismatched and they get drugged. I would say it's also about the mortal world and the fairy world clashing. It's on for a few days at the Epstein Theatre, and as I said, the best description would be "sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll".

Have you always had a keen interest in Shakespeare's work?

Yeah! I'm a songwriter as well, and I've always liked Shakespeare's sonnets more than anything. I think Shakespeare was a bit misunderstood, because people sometimes think "Oh Shakespeare, that's for really intelligent people!" But Shakespeare was actually a working class man who wrote for royalty, so he was actually the same as us, and he created around 30,000 words for the English language that we still use today; words that we're quite familiar with, or words within his text that are derivatives of the words that we use today. I don't see it as a huge leap in that way, but the imagery and how he would describe things; the language is just stunning. So, I'm definitely a big fan of Shakespeare.

This will be the first time that a Shakespeare play has been performed at the Epstein Theatre. What was the importance of bringing this show to the Epstein?

The Epstein obviously has a long history with people in the city; it certainly does with my family. My granddad became a policeman, and when the police went on strike, he volunteered and became a desk sergeant. So, he became really important, and from there he would put on a lot of charity shows at the theatre, in the days when it was the Crane Theatre, when there was a piano shop below. That's why that theatre was built, to practice the pianos. There's a great story behind the whole theatre itself, and I think for it to have been so long without anything like this, I think that's important in itself. Liverpool's got lots of amazing theatres: the Empire, which is a touring house; Unity, which focuses on art; the Royal Court, which has local shows geared to people who may not normally go to theatre shows. All of the theatres have a place and a personality in the city, and I think that the Epstein is equally important. I think it's an absolute jewel in the city. Plus I've worked with a lot of people from the city who have gone off and worked on amazing jobs, such as Chloe (Taylor), who had the lead role in Wicked, one of the biggest shows in the world, and James (Templeton), who was in Jesus Christ Superstar, not to mention the Blood Brothers contingent there as well. There's lots of people who have gone away and done things, and have come back to perform in this show. It's really exciting!

Tell us about your background, and about Daniel Taylor Productions.

I was born in Liverpool, as were my family. The reason I put this production company together was for a show about Tommy Cooper, and it kind of snowballed a bit from there. The Tommy Cooper Show has now done over 40 venues throughout the UK, and it's a three-hander celebration of his life. The production company helps to keep the show going, because theatres that we've been to would say "What have you got next?" We didn't really have anything ready, but I was keen to do some Shakespeare, and I saw that they haven't done anything like this, so I thought "let's keep this going", let's see if we can create something there. That's how it's all come about, really.

What are some of your biggest shows to date, and which shows can we expect in the future?

I've just been playing John Lennon in the show Lennon Through A Glass Onion. It's a show endorsed by Yoko Ono, and we've taken it to the United States and Canada. We've just finished up in Los Angeles. It started in Liverpool, and it then went on an eight-country tour. I believe that we'll be going back to the States sometime soon. So, there's that, and obviously I've got a big connection with Blood Brothers (I played Sammy in that show for years), I've played Tommy Cooper, and I did Down The Dock Road for Alan Bleasdale last year too. I played the role that was written for Mickey Finn. He was the stuff of legend, and he sadly passed away last year. That was a big thing for me, to work with somebody like Alan Bleasdale was amazing, because he's a contemporary. He'd probably hate that I said that as he's not that kind of fellah, but he's definitely a contemporary genius of some kind amongst playwrights. He's similar to Willy Russell, those kind of writers who have come from within the city.

Which characters should people look out for when watching this show?

There's obviously Bottom; he's the class clown, if you like. There's Mechanicals in the play that they're putting on for the Duke, and he wants to play all of the parts. It's quite funny: he's very clown-like, so he's fun to watch, but then there's characters like Puck, who's Oberon's sidekick, and I think the kids who see this show are going to be really wowed by the whole fairy world, which is played brilliantly. I'll be honest, whatever happens next week, if I've done anything, I've definitely cast the play as best as I could, because they're all brilliant in their own way, as they're all stellar actors. They've all gone out there and done good stuff, and they're still persevering with it all and improving even more, but they've all done phenomenal things, so it's kind of a way of bringing people back together. As characters, there's the lovers, the mis-identity with the lovers, the whole farce situation there, the Mechanicals. I don't think there are any characters that people wouldn't be taken by, but I'd say that Puck and Bottom stand out a little bit more.

Finally, what can the Liverpool audience expect from A Midsummer Night's Dream?

My big thing with this has always been that if you watch Shakespeare, if you know that you're watching Shakespeare, then it's not being done right. We want the audience to follow this and forget that they're watching Shakespeare; I want to get rid of that whole thing, so that people can just follow this great story. Shakespeare's stories have influenced film, books, all kinds of things, and they still do to this day. His influence on a lot of things that we do and take for granted is still very much relevant today. I want to give the audience a good night out, because it's funny, it's magical, it's mischief, and it's a wonderful, wonderful story. It was around 400 years or so ago, when Shakespeare was around, and yet people are still doing his plays, so there's your answer as to what people can expect.

A Midsummer Night's Dream will be performed at the Epstein Theatre from Tuesday April 25 to Saturday April 29. To book your tickets, click here.

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