It took award-winning actress Janie Dee just seconds to accept the part of Titania in The Globe’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream which comes to Aylesbury’s Waterside Theatre on Wednesday.
She’d turned down work with Alan Ayckbourn and in the regions saying that she couldn’t leave her children.
And then her agent phoned. “I know you’ll probably turn it down but..” And then came the offer of a lifetime.
Would she like to take The Dream to China, Hong Kong, Russia and Singapore?
“But the thing was – Russia!” said an ebullient Janie when I met her this week.
“Russia! Which has been a dream (to visit) ever since I did Chekhov and Shostakovich.
“We’ll be playing in the theatre where Chekhov premiered his plays!
“I said, hold on, let me think about this. This is an absolutely amazing life opportunity”.
Janie last appeared in a Globe production in 2011 with All’s Well That Ends Well but she is also a West End and TV regular, who has amassed two Oliviers and a mantelpiece full of other awards for both straight drama and musicals.
She had just finished Blithe Spirit with Angela Lansbury before plunging into rehearsals for the Dream.
“I was told that Dominic (Dromgoole) would be directing and I’d never worked with him before, so I thought that would be exciting.
“Then I got a message from Aden Gillett, my good friend and colleague over several years: ‘Naughty you are, see you soon sweetheart.’
“I said (to him): ‘Why am I naughty and when am I going to see you ?
“Aden said: ‘Wasn’t it you who put me up for Oberon and I said no but was so pleased when he said that he was going to do it!”
Before Janie conquers Asia the production, which was first performed in 2013 with almost an entirely different cast, is making a whistle-stop visit to two UK theatres.
It played at Kingston’s Rose Theatre on Friday/ Saturday and this week comes to Aylesbury for five nights before the company boards a plane to Shanghai.
Added Janie:”I’ve not been to Aylesbury before but I’m sure it’s a great place to start the tour.”
The show’s executive producer, Tom Bird, said the chance to tour Asia came out of visits to The Globe of companies from both China and Russia for a festival in 2012.
“We’re delighted and excited to be returning to Aylesbury where we played King Lear last year to great success.
“After Aylesbury we get on a plane and play the Shanghai Arts Centre, the first time The Globe has been to mainland China.
“But UK touring is massively important to us. We don’t believe that this place (The Globe Theatre) is just for London, we think of it as being for the whole country and the world.
“We actively get out and about in this country. We play in all sorts of venues around the country, from land behind a pub, to the grounds of stately homes and grand theatres”.
And they’re not leaving the now iconic London theatre behind when they go on the road for four months. The set, designed by Jonathan Fensom, is a replica of The Globe’s stage – with the addition of a very special portrait, looking down from the Lords’ balcony.
Joe Murphy, associate director, added: “Dominic really believes, when touring The Globe work, in trying to give people the experience they might have in The Globe as much as possible.
“Our unique building is so much a part of what we’re about.
“This year’s production is almost a new version. But the play still has the same aesthetic. It’s about marriage and relationships and how you find a way through marriage.
“Dominic theorises that this play was written for a marriage ceremony and first performed at the marriage ceremony of the granddaughter of the then lord chamberlain – so we’ve his portrait adorning the Lords’ gallery, centre stage”.
Cherie Huang, who is helping organise the Chinese leg of the tour said tickets were already sold out at some venues.
“The Chinese audiences are really looking forward to the visit by The Globe Theatre,” she said.
“For one thing this is an iconic building. A lot of Chinese visit the UK and this is a must-see place for them.
“Sometimes they don’t have the time to see a play – plus there are no Chinese subtitles (note to management..) so it’s hugely exciting for them to see The Globe in their home town”.
If you can’t afford the flight to Hong Kong or St Petersburg, there are still seats available at Aylesbury’s Waterside Theatre where the Dream will play from Sept 10-14.