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Q&A with Danielle Pearson, playwright of Queen Mab

Danielle Pearson’s Queen Mab is the first play of Iris Theatre’s 2021 Seed Commissions series. Directed by Georgie Staight, Queen Mab weaves music and storytelling in this dynamic piece of new writing. Both Danielle and Georgie are Associate Artists of the Watermill Theatre.

Danielle Pearson
Danielle Pearson

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.

Read our Q&A with Danielle Pearson
Q: You’re the writer of Queen Mab, premiering at the Iris Theatre Summer Festival on 21st June. Can you tell us about the play?
Danielle: Queen Mab is a new play with music that 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 made worse by being stuck at home with her family. Mab, meanwhile, has been watching humanity for centuries and is completely bored of us – but something in Freya intrigues her and draws her back into
our world.

Q: What drew you to adapting Shakespeare’s famous speech into a full-length play?
Danielle: I’ve always been intrigued by the glimpse of Mab we get in Romeo & Juliet and wanted to know more about her. 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 perfect vehicle for looking at 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 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.

Q: Why do you think storytelling is so important during a pandemic?
Danielle: Stories are our way of processing our emotions and trying to make sense of the chaos that is being human, so they’re more important than ever at times like these. To be back in a rehearsal room after all these months in isolation has really brought that home to me. Collaborating with other artists, watching actors breathe life into characters and playing live music feels so powerful. I’ve basically been an emotional puddle through most of it, and I’m hoping it will give the audience a sense of catharsis too.

Q: How significant is this opportunity as a writer to have your play selected as part of the Seed Commissions series?
Danielle: I’m so excited to be part of the Iris Theatre 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 great opportunity to return and be part of the industry here just as it’s finding its feet again.

Q: Finally, how would you describe Queen Mab in 3 words?
Danielle: Joyful, poignant, magical!

Danielle Pearson is an Associate Artist at the Watermill Theatre, where recent work includes A Christmas Carol, Jane Eyre and Newbury Yarns. Other work includes Combe Gibbet (Paines Plough), D Day 75 (101 Greenham Arts), This Restless State (Ovalhouse/UK tour), and A Prickle of Hedgehogs (Southwark Playhouse). In 2017 she was a member of the Royal Court Writer’s Group and a winner of the EU Collective Plays! Competition.

The festival also includes five pieces from the company’s Seed Commission Scheme for 2021, an initiative opened for applications from early-career artists or companies in Spring this year. The selected artists/companies are:

  • Flux Theatre with Danielle Pearson’s Queen Mab in a co-production with Arsalan Sattari Productions
  • Tom Ryalls presents Can You See Into A Black Hole?, directed by Deidre McLaughlin
  • FAIR PLAY. present Shoes to Fill by Tanya Bridgeman, directed by Alex Miller
  • Zoe Woodruff and Kathryn Tindall present new musical The Red Side of The Moon
  • Tiny T’s Storytelling & Theatre present Spectacular! a new show for children

Flux Theatre, Arsalan Sattari Productions and Iris Theatre present
By Danielle Pearson
Directed by Georgie Staight; Designed by Isobel Nicolson
21 – 26 June 2021
Press Night: Tuesday 22 June at 7.30pm

Tom Ryalls and Iris Theatre present
By Tom Ryalls
28 June – 3 July 2021
Press Night: Tuesday 29 June at 7.30pm

FAIR PLAY. and Iris Theatre present
Written by Tanya Bridgeman
5 – 10 July 2021
Press Night: Tuesday 6 July at 7.30pm

Zoe Woodruff, Kathryn Tindall and Iris Theatre present
The World Première of new musical
By Zoe Woodruff
12 – 17 July 2021
Press Night: Tuesday 13 July at 7.30pm

Tiny T’s Storytelling & Theatre and Iris Theatre present
24 – 28 July 2021
Press performance: Saturday 24 July at 2.30pm

Iris Theatre presents
by Reuben Johnson
4 – 22 August 2021
Press Night: Thursday 5 August at 7.30pm

St Pauls Covent Garden, Actors’ Church, Bedford Street, London, WC2E 9ED


  • Neil Cheesman

    First becoming involved in an online theatre business in 2005 and launching londontheatre1.com in September 2013. Neil writes reviews and news articles, and has interviewed over 150 actors and actresses from the West End, Broadway, film, television, and theatre. Follow Neil on Twitter @LondonTheatre1

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