Northern Ireland

Belfast actors team up with the Royal Shakespeare Company

Maggie Gorman and Trevor Gill rehearsing
Image caption Maggie Gorman, left, rehearsing for the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'

Maggie Gorman works as a human resources administrator, but she is about to take on a very exciting new role.

She is not changing jobs, however.

In her spare time, Maggie acts with Belfast's Belvoir Players amateur drama company.

But this year, she'll be one of the stars in the Royal Shakespeare Company's touring production of 'A Midsummer Night's Dream.'

Image caption Maggie Gorman works as a human resources administrator

"I think it's the biggest opportunity I'm ever really going to get," she said.

"I'm not looking to make this my big career in life - I like the slow pace of amateur dramatics - but this is the one big chance to bring some excitement into it, and some real professionalism."

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionSix actors were selected from the Belvoir's Players club in Belfast

In all, six actors from Belvoir Players have been chosen by the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) for the roles of 'the mechanicals' in the play.

They are an integral part of the comedy, as they gather to rehearse a play in honour of a royal wedding.

When a fairy called Puck discovers their rehearsal, he casts a spell and all manner of mischief results.

Image caption Trevor Gill, a management consultant, will play Nick Bottom

Most of the laughs are at the expense of the character of Nick Bottom, who is played by another amateur from Belfast, management consultant Trevor Gill.

"Not in our wildest dreams have we ever said to ourselves that one day the Belvoir Players amateur theatre company from Belfast would stand toe-to-toe with the professionals of the RSC," he said.

"Not in a million years did we think we'd have this opportunity, it's really quite amazing."

The local cast are one of 14 amateur groups across the UK chosen to join the production in 2016 as it tours the UK to mark the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare's death.

They are the only participants from Northern Ireland to take part, but they are getting expert help ahead of their time in the spotlight.

RSC Associate Director Kimberley Sykes has travelled to Belfast for rehearsals, and they are also getting advice from the professional members of the cast via videolink.

Image caption The Royal Shakespeare Company's Kimberley Sykes said the opportunity is "the chance of a lifetime"

Ms Sykes said it was the chance of a lifetime for amateur actors, giving them the chance to perform alongside some of the finest stage actors in the world.

"Some of them have said it's a death bed moment.

"The moment you remember the birth of your children, your wedding day, and the moment you played on the RSC stage in A Midsummer Night's Dream.

"It's probably one of Shakespeare's more well-known plays, as a lot of people have studied it at school so they'll recognise some of the characters," said Ms Sykes.

"It's a play about love, about celebration, about festivities, so there's something in there for everybody."

The local cast will join the RSC on the stage of the Grand Opera House in Belfast from 31 May - 4 June.

Image caption The six actors from Belfast are the only people from Northern Ireland participating in the production

They then move across the Irish sea for three performances in July.

"Just to put the cap on it," said Trevor Gill, "we will then go to the RSC's theatre in Stratford-Upon-Avon."

"When you think of some of the actors who have set foot on that stage, like Laurence Olivier or Judi Dench, for us just to be there as members of the cast is absolutely amazing."

The local actors will work intensively for the next few months to be ready for their big roles, but Trevor admits there is only one slight downside to what lies ahead.

"It's sometimes difficult to get on with your day job, because you think to yourself 'Blimey, in five months time I'm going to be acting with the Royal Shakespeare Company."

"How did that happen?"

More on this story