tells us why A Midsummer Night’s Dream really
really has to happen at Midsummer
about a night where anything is possible, where fairies and humans come
together, and fall in love, and sleep and dream, and occasionally turn one
another into donkeys. It’s a play all about a sort of fleeting magic that’s so
real when it’s happening, but in the morning leaves you dazed and confused
about how you got from where you were last night to where you are right now.
when trying to write an adaptation of the play was to shift the action entirely
from midsummer to Hallowe’en. Hallowe’en has that quality of being a night when
worlds collide and the rules that stop magic from happening don’t necessarily
apply, but when I tried to write the story in that setting, something didn’t
quite work, because in a medium sized provincial city in Britain in 2015 –
which is where my novel, Midsummer Dreams,
is set – Hallowe’en isn’t about magic and mystery; it’s about trick or
treating, and barmaids wearing pound shop witches hats, and gingerbread
pumpkins with orange icing. And none of those things shriek romance and magical
back to Midsummer, which is a different sort of beast altogether. The longest
day of the year, with the shortest night, and right across Europe there are
traditions around that shortest night. Mostly they involve fire. Because,
really all the best ancient traditions involve setting fire to stuff. Want to
make on offering to the Gods? Set fire to it. Want to greet the rising sun?
Start a fire. Want to keep away the fearsome spirits of the night? Light a
many ancient traditions, as Christianity spread across Europe, the new religion
adopted some of the rituals and feastdays of the old, so John the Baptist now
has his saint’s day at Midsummer, and back in the middle ages the celebrations
for the solstice were able to continue under the new name of St John’s Eve. In
Gloucestershire, for example, there was a tradition of setting fires which
would scare away the dragons which were, undoubtedly loitering somewhere just
out of sight, and that continued after Christianity had taken hold, only now
they were St John’s nice Christian fires which, presumably, would specifically
ward off nasty heathen dragons.
countries, particularly in Scandinavia, Midsummer continues to be a big deal,
but in Britain, outside of pagan circles, those universally understood rituals
have largely ebbed away. From a writer’s point of view that’s fantastic. It
means that Midsummer is left with a vague sense of magic and ritual and
something long forgotten about it, but beyond that the creative imagination can
run wild. There might be fairies. There might be potions. There might be magic.
There might be love. There might even be a donkey, but, then again, there might
not. Midsummer is a gift to a writer because it remains a time when, for one
short night and one long day, anything seems possible.
that changes everything …
to the fact that her own is far from perfect.
he’s not happy himself.
face up to the fact that he will never be hers.
commit to, she is just out of his reach.
begin to unravel and show them that, sometimes, the sensible choice is not
always the right one.
Dreams is out now on Kindle.
novelist and short story writer who lives in Worcester. Her contemporary
romantic comedies, including Sweet Nothing and Midsummer Dreams and the Christmas
Kisses series are published
by Choc Lit.
qualified teacher with a degree in Creative Writing. She has taught creative
writing for HOW College and the University of Worcester, and now runs her
independent novel writing workshops.
more about Alison at www.alison-may.co.uk
or on Twitter @MsAlisonMay
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