Friday, 26 February 2016

Interview: Cat Simmons, starring in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Lyric Hammersmith

Cat Simmons is currently starring as Titania in the Lyric Hammersmith and Filter Theatre’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Co-directed by Sean Holmes and Stef O’Driscoll, the show has returned to the Lyric where it previously ran to acclaim in 2012.

The show is described as a “riotous reinterpretation of one of Shakespeare’s best loved plays”. With music from the London Snorkelling Team performed by Chris Branch and Keith de Barra, this classic tale of young lovers and warring fairies is given a unique and irreverent twist. 

Cat recently reprised her performance as Nancy in Oliver! at the Leicester Curve, having previously played the role in the UK touring production. 

Just a few of her extensive theatre credits include: Jane Wenham: The Witch of Walkern (Arcola/Watford Palace), Hopelessly Devoted (Tricycle/UK Tour), Whistle Down The Wind (Aldwych), Coming Home (Arcola), Lightning Child & Macbeth (both Globe), Decade (Headlong), Been So Long (Young Vic), Aladdin (Old Vic) and Fame (Cambridge). On screen she has played DC Kezia Walker in The Bill and Scarlett Anderson in Family Affairs.

I recently spoke to Cat about throwing herself into this bold reinterpretation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, pushing herself out of her comfort zone and what it was like to recently reprise her performance as Nancy in Oliver!...

This is a very bold reinterpretation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream! Did you know what you were letting yourself in for when you were offered the role?
Well I saw a Filter production of Twelfth Night at the Tricycle back in 2010 – I thought it was wild, anarchic and just crazy! The interpretations of the characters were fantastic and so fun yet still paid homage to the text – that’s what I liked about it, it put a new spin on a classic text. Going into the rehearsal room for this was a little daunting at first, most of the company had worked together quite a lot before. It has been a brilliant process! It has been so exciting – rock music… Shakespeare… comedy… breaking the shackles of all the conformities that go with this tradition…. I’m well up for it!

Without giving anything away, what do you think audiences will go through watching this production?
I think they’ll laugh a lot and completely understand the story. They’re just going to have fun! It’s an experience!

Cat in A Midsummer Night’s Dream

How were rehearsals? Has the production evolved since the last time it was staged?
They make a point of putting the show together in just two weeks – we didn’t have time to think about it. During a six week rehearsal process you have really good ideas but then talk yourself out of them, but with this there was no time to think so we just went for it. The team are very clever and I’m very lucky to be working with them. [laughs] To be honest I’m still a bit gobsmacked myself! I can’t believe I’m doing it [laughs]… I guess I am!

It must be so nice to push yourself out of your comfort zone? It’s completely different to the other shows you’ve done recently.
Yes, it has been a breath of fresh air to have that freedom and a creative process. It has been a very collaborative experience and it’s nice to be a part of that. Stef (O’Driscoll) is fantastic – I’ve worked with her before on Kate Tempest's Hopelessly Devoted so it was great to get back in the rehearsal room with her. I think she’s going to be a very important person one day, she’s incredibly talented. She nurtures and brings out ideas. 

Cat in Oliver!
Recently you have been jumping from show to show to show. I don’t know how you do it! What’s going on inside your brain right now?!
[laughs] I have no idea! I just keep going! A couple of weeks ago I had my first two days off since about June. I literally slept all weekend [laughs]. I’m slowly starting to come round! I wouldn’t have it any other way. They used to say when I was younger that if I wasn’t kept busy I would get into trouble. They have all been really creative processes, to recreate Nancy again was such a joy.

What was it like to play Nancy again? Last time we spoke you said how much you loved doing the tour! This production at the Curve was completely different…
They had a top creative team at the Curve, the set was glorious and the costumes… I think my dress was the most expensive thing in the show. It was just fantastic. Cameron’s production is brilliant, he holds back no punches, doing both productions were completely different experiences and I could never compare them. I loved getting to go back and work on the relationships between the characters again. We had local kids playing the boys which was great – it gave it an edge. They were rowdy boys, rough and tumble, like they’re supposed to be. It was different and fun.

And then you left the production early to jump into another show!
I was sad to leave early! But then I went into Jane Wenham: The Witch of Walkern. Working with Rebecca Lenkiewicz was such a joy – she’s such a brilliant writer. At some point I think I do need a week off though [laughs]. As an artist you always get that come down as soon as you have some free time – I would probably end up just sleeping for a week! [jokingly] Or I’ll start moaning about not having another job lined up or something like that, but luckily I’m never out of work for long.

Interviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

A Midsummer Night’s Dream runs at the Lyric Hammersmith to 19th March 2016.
Please visit for further information and tickets.

Photo Credit 2: Tristram Kenton
Photo Credit 3: Pamela Raith 

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