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Rub shoulders with the lovers and fairies within the cavernous basement of Alexandra Palace as theatre mavericks RIFT bring you 'A Midsummer Night’s Dream'

This September, the hidden space below the iconic Alexandra Palace is opened up to the public for one of the first times in living memory.

Throughout the month theatre mavericks RIFT will be staging a rendering of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, set on the eve of the first television broadcast in 1936. The production channels the history and legacy of the Palace and its illustrious past as the birthplace of television.

This reimagining of a classic text sets the play in the world of television as presided over by Alexandra Palace. As we move between the layers of the play and further into the cavernous basement, we move deeper into the artifice of television.

Alexandra Palace played host to the first ever TV broadcast. In the ensuing 90 years the city at its feet survived world wars, weathered poll tax riots and financial collapse; skyscrapers and football stadiums sprung like foliage to form a rich urban jungle of glass and light. The people of London, much like the characters of Shakespeare’s magical world, retreated to its farthest reaches to conduct their fantastical desires. They stalked through Hampstead Heath with only their cigarette ends showing, the roofs of warehouses in Hackney Wick dripped with sweat, the stadiums filled with people swearing, shouting, and kissing. The boundaries of this city aren’t that different from the boundaries of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, they just look different.

The advent of television has slowly but surely broadened our view of the world, and enabled us to live the lives of others. All of this began from one antenna atop a hill in North London, at the highest point of a Palace that has hidden depths below.

Rarely seen by anyone, the basement was part of the original design of the building, and survived both of the devastating fires in 1873 and 1980. Built to service all the Palace offered, the nineteenth century kitchens, service areas, stores and workshops are all still evident. During the 20th Century the basement was home to huge furnace ovens and props for the BBC. Even 18,00 internees were housed here during the First World War; the internee bed within the cell is still evident today.
Now it will play host to our characters of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, who will bound throughout the basement, with the audience rubbing shoulders with the case of lovers and fairies following their every move.

RIFT’s previous Shakespeare performances include The Tempest (O Brave New World) in an East London shop and an overnight Macbeth at Balfron Tower in Poplar. Run by Felix Mortimer and Joshua Nawras, the duo’s work has been hailed as “Exhilarating... Hugely Ambitious” by The Guardian and “Astounding” by The Stage.

RIFT co-founder Felix Mortimer said, “This project is a natural progression from our last Shakespeare production. Macbeth centred around the concept of sleeplessness, overnight in a Poplar tower block. Now, in a Victorian basement, we discover the magic of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. We will draw out the play’s magical properties of sleep, hedonism, bestiality and ‘the other’, whilst immersed underground. The history is ingrained in the space, the atmosphere seeps out of the walls. We are bringing it back to life once more, for everyone to see.”

A Midsummer Night’s Dream can be seen in the basements of Alexandra Palace from 3rd - 28th September.
Buy tickets here: alexandrapalaceevents