Shakespeare plays are definitely no drag for Dan

Dan Wheeler (Katherine) and Vince Leigh (Petruchio) in Propeller's 2013 production of The Taming of the Shrew. Credit Manuel Harlan.
Dan Wheeler (Katherine) and Vince Leigh (Petruchio) in Propeller's 2013 production of The Taming of the Shrew. Credit Manuel Harlan.
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Actor Dan Wheeler really enjoys working with Propeller Theatre, who are back in Sheffield next week, but says donning a frock with an all-male cast can take its toll.

Dan played the ‘shrew’, Katherine, in Shakespeare’s play The Taming of the Shrew last year, which came to the Lyceum.

He seemed to be constantly dragged around and mistreated in the second half, when Petruchio takes extreme measures to ‘tame’ his new wife.

Dan said: “I only just survived! That was an interesting production and it was hard work. In a way that’s something we can do being an all-male company.”

“We’re very physical – we do throw each other around in a way you couldn’t do with actresses playing the role.

“I play Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. There’s lots of lovers’ quarrel and I imagine that’s done much more physically than you have seen before, jumping on and throwing each other around. It’s very high energy.”

The company are performing two Shakespeare comedies, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the Comedy of Errors, at Sheffield Lyceum over the next fortnight.

Dan said: “A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a really beautiful piece and a wonderful use of the chorus in terms of the fairies telling the story.

“The Comedy of Errors is wild, slapstick and ridiculous with lots of live music and big characters.”

He says of frock roles: “I go about it the same way as I would approach playing any other character, thinking what does this character want in every scene. How do they move, how do they speak?

“You’re asking questions about how the character is similar to you and different to you.

“Gender is the least interesting thing about the changes you have to make as an actor. It’s pointless for us to try and fool people into thinking that we are women.

“The audience are forced to use their imagination from the off. I have never seen audiences so involved in any theatre production, let alone Shakespeare.

“They have to meet you halfway and they have to imagine this guy is a woman. We are telling stories about people and stories about what happens between people.”

He added: “The Comedy of Errors is basically an out-and-out farce. It’s the most farce-like of Shakespeare’s plays. It’s all about mistaken identity.”

Every scene is about someone being mistaken for anyone else. With two sets of twins, the possibilities are endless.”

It’s a new production, which gets its first outing in Sheffield. Dan said: “I’ll be interested to see how the audience takes to it.”

He went to university in Leeds and tactfully says that he loves the whole of Yorkshire.

His girlfriend went to university in Sheffield, so she’s been giving him the lowdown on which restaurants to visit while he’s here.

He said: “I really enjoy playing in Sheffield. The theatre scene is so fantastic and the audiences are fantastic too.

He thinks it makes a difference having a top producing theatre as well as touring shows at the city’s theatres. “It means the audiences expect a high quality of work, which makes it very exciting to perform here.”

Propeller’s The Comedy of Errors runs at the Lyceum from tonight to Friday, January 31. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is on from January 28 to February 1.

Box office: at the Crucible, online at www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk or call 0114 249 6000.