Danielle Pearson is the writer of Queen Mab which premieres as part of Iris Theatre’s Summer Festival 2021, running in the courtyard of the Actors’ Church, their home in the heart of Covent Garden from 21 June – 22 August 2021.
Queen Mab is directed by Georgie Staight, and is inspired by Mercutio’s famous speech in Romeo and Juliet. Queen Mab brings this mythic dream-weaver into the mundanity of pandemic life. A coming-of-age tale for fifteen-year-olds and five-hundred-year-olds alike. Through music and storytelling, Queen Mab examines the euphoria, confusion and loneliness of youth.
Queen Mab by Danielle Pearson runs at the Summer Festival 21 – 26 June 2021. More details and tickets can be found here.
Queen Mab, is coming to The Actors Church as part of Iris Theatre’s summer festival, what can you tell us about the play?
Queen Mab is a new play with music which re-imagines Shakespeare’s mythic dream-weaver for 2021, and explores her unlikely friendship with Freya, a locked-down teen. Freya is struggling with all the tumultuous emotions that come with being fifteen and falling in love for the first time, and all of that is only exacerbated by being stuck at home with her family. Mab, meanwhile, has been watching humanity for centuries and is bored to death of us – but something in Freya draws her in.
What inspired you to write it?
Mab wandered into my brain quite a few years ago. The description we get of her in Mercutio’s speech is so tantalising, yet she never gets her own play. But there’s so much richness in the way Shakespeare’s other magical beings clash with the mortal world, whether it’s Puck tormenting the lovers in Dream, the witches setting off the chain of events in Macbeth, or Ariel doing Prospero’s bidding. I thought there was potential in the idea of Mab still in the same job four hundred years later, interacting with the modern world as both an eternal outsider and someone with a privileged knowledge of our deepest thoughts and fears.
Then, during the pandemic, it occurred to me that Mab was a brilliant way into the weirdness of our lock-down minds. I was working with young people on Zoom a lot and thinking about how the loneliness and lost time has affected them, and how that generation can begin to pick up the pieces and move forward. I liked the idea that Mab might stumble into a friendship with a teenager and that they could navigate coming-of-age together in these very unusual circumstances.
Why do you think it was Mercutio’s famous speech in Romeo and Juliet that stood out more than any other?
I remember watching Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet when I was quite young and seeing Harold Perrineau’s incredible performance of the speech. I didn’t fully understand what he was talking about then, but he captured the darkness and terror of Mab as well as the mischief, and it seemed to foreshadow the doom that awaits the lovers. Hearing it in later years and understanding it more, I was intrigued by the character of Mab and what he does and doesn’t reveal about her.
What has it meant to you to be part of the Seed Commissions series, and what opportunities has it given you?
I’m so excited to be part of the Iris Theatre Summer Festival. This commission has given me the opportunity to work on an idea I’m passionate about and to explore new elements of the craft, including writing chunks of the play in iambic pentameter. I moved away from London in 2019 so even before the pandemic it’s been a while since I was in the city, and this feels like such a brilliant chance to return and be part of the industry here just as it’s finding its feet again.
Why do you think it’s so important that you’ve been able to write and create during the pandemic?
Writing always feels essential for my mental health but never more so than during the isolation of the pandemic. Creating this show gave me a space to start to process some of the questions and anxieties of the last year… but also to completely escape into the mind of an ancient telepathic fairy, so that was a nice change of pace.
What would you say to anyone thinking of coming to see Queen Mab?
From the outset we’ve been determined that this show should be a celebration of the return of live theatre and storytelling. We hope that audience members of any age will find a space to laugh, cry, use their imaginations and enjoy live music from our wickedly talented cast in the beautiful Iris Theatre gardens.