Notes on Oberon
Welcome back, as the curtain rises and act two begins with a new play, a new character and a journey into Shakespeare’s fantastical side, by way of a small tribute to the late David Bowie.
Like many children of the Eighties, Labyrinth was my gateway drug to the magic of Bowie. (Basically, it’s a damn good film to have in your childhood.) And, in many ways, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a perfect starting point for Shakespeare. I’d always entertained the notion that if I ever tackled Oberon, I wanted to tip my hat in the direction of Bowie’s iconic (was he ever anything less?) role as the goblin king. When the sad news broke last week, I felt inclined to finally put the idea down on paper, so drew this concept sketch of a primitive “wild man of the woods” Oberon (in hindsight, the cloak of leaves was never going to make it into the strip – too busy), sporting the goblin king’s hair and infamous “Bowie bulge” – although since virtually all the men (and some of the women…) wear codpieces in these parts, Oberon’s had to be even more absurdly large. I also threw in Puck as a Brian Froud-esque goblin in Artful Dodger cod-Victorian get-up. After drawing so many medieval and Tudor characters, the fairies are a good opportunity to try something a bit different.
I came to realise in developing a full cartoon for him that Oberon is a natural comic-strip character – he does terrible things, gets away with them and never says sorry. It’s as if Dennis the Menace had been given dominion over the forces of nature. I wanted to explore in a humourous way what a scary character Oberon can be – A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a magical fun romp and Oberon can come across as a lovable rascal in that context, and what he does to Titania is pretty horrific when you think about it. Still, if we shadows have offended…
And speaking of the fairy queen, Titania’s hair goes all the way down to her feet, and is able to function as a small duvet. I’ve barely begun act two and already it’s reached peak hair.
The line-up of dashing chaps aren’t intended to be anyone in particular, although the one on the end is modeled on Denzel Washington’s effortlessly cool Don Pedro in Kenneth Branagh’s Much Ado About Nothing. That said, I quite like the look of the pretty boy at the front and might recast that actor in a bigger part somewhere down the line. He’d make a good Claudio.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a play I will definitely be returning to later in act two.