An experimental performance piece influenced in equal measure by Shakespeare and Serge Gainsbourg is coming to the Mercury Theatre next week.

The Beginning is part of a trilogy of works by award-winning writer and performance maker Michael Pinchbeck. He uses Shakespearean texts as starting points for the performance, through which he explores his ongoing relationship with the theatre.

He said: “I started the trilogy with The End, in which I promised never to perform again. At the time, I felt like it was the final show I needed to make, as I’d been touring for 15 years previously. But the success of the piece prompted me to make The Beginning. If The End was a resignation letter to theatre, The Beginning is a love letter to it.”

He added: “It doesn’t matter if you have seen The End or not – The Beginning is a completely standalone piece.”

Michael communicates in the performance solely through a video camera which films him writing words onto index cards, with the result projected live on a screen. He is joined by performers Nicki Hobday and Ollie Smith, who re-enact a love story from A Midsummer Night’s Dream as well as Gainsbourg’s Histoire de Melody Nelson, which tells the story of the musician’s love for English actress Jane Birkin.

He said: “The Beginning explores theatrical entrances and the notion of a play within a play. It is a story about where Nicki, Ollie and I are now and where we were when we first performed. It is a story that remembers how we felt, waiting in the wings, before we went onstage for the first time. It is a story about how it feels to perform in front of an audience.

“We have all performed in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and we will revisit these performances so we are in those theatres as well as the Mercury Theatre, working with the text then and now. The piece will reflect on where we are in life and in our profession, and ask how we might begin a relationship, a career or a show.”

Total Theatre said The Beginning was “subtly performed and cleverly created theatre in absentia”, while The Culture Vulture said it was an “ode to theatre itself”.

Michael is now working on the third piece in the trilogy, The Middle.

The Beginning comes to the Mercury Theatre from Tuesday, April 9 to Thursday, April 11. Tickets cost £12.50 with concessions priced at £10. For more information call the Box Office on 01206 573948 or visit