A co-production between the Royal Shakespeare Company and amateur companies across the UK

This is an arrangement developed between the RSC and Equity

A Beautiful Gift By Trevor Gill

Trevor Gill, aka Bottom from The Belvoir Players, has his final say on the project, and why it has been a truly special gift.

Pictured: A Midsummer Night’s Dream performance in Belfast. Photo: Topher McGrillis.

This Friday night, five of my good friends from The Belvoir Players and I will stand at the very heart of world drama. We will step out onto the stage at the RSC’s Royal Shakespeare Theatre (RST), Stratford on Avon in the 400th anniversary year of William Shakespeare’s death. We follow in the footsteps of the great and the good of UK and international theatre.

Sometimes I still find it hard to believe that it’s happening.

The glorious RSC-inspired process we’ve been steeped in has been going on for well over a year now. From us completing an application form, to recruiting and preparing our cast, through the auditions at the Lyric Theatre Belfast, followed by rehearsals at RSC rehearsal rooms and by video link from The Belvoir Studio Theatre.

At one point we thought the actual performances featuring The Belvoir Players were a long way off. Yet, here we are, after seven glorious shows at the Grand Opera House, Belfast where standing ovations, applause rounds and laughter abounded from very generous and enthusiastic Belfast audiences. We now have the great honour of appearing in the last three ever performances of A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A Play for the Nation at the wonderful RST.

The RST is a theatre where the audience are on three sides, they are at the heart of the action and many could easily reach out and hold hands with the actors. It was described most vividly by my good friend Owen Evans as like acting inside a ‘drama womb’. I’m excited about that – bring it on!

There have been so many highlights. Director Erica Whyman describing our Belfast performances as ‘beautiful work’. Associate Director Kim Sykes demonstrating consummate directorial and people skills – thriving and encouraging, improving us no matter what we threw at her (Bottom says “sorry Kim”). RSC Voice Coach Michael Corbidge always at his most glorious and inspiring. The professional cast so kind and encouraging despite a punishing schedule.

And, of course, that rush. When the RSC team of cast and crew hit Belfast it was as if a musical, technical, artistic, dramatic, intellectual, benign Shakespearian storm had swept us up and was carrying us along on a whirlwind of adrenalin and heightened sense. It was like nothing I’ve ever experienced or ever will again.

Most of all, I, and my fellow cast members, have made some friends that I hope will remain in contact for a very long time. Fine actors, great directors and lovely people from across the UK.

Erica Whyman, her team and the RSC have given UK amateur drama a beautiful gift the effects of which will be long standing. The trust shown in us, the time and energy and love expended on us by the world’s most famous theatre company, has been truly amazing.

No matter what happens, how it went, what’s been said, what will be said and what transpires in the future, I have played Nick Bottom with The Royal Shakespeare Company. My fellow Belvoir Players were at my side.

That will do. Oh yes, that will do.

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