A Midsummer Night's Dream - Review

Director, Carl Boardman, aimed to bring a fresh approach to this classic play.

Not only did he present it as a promenade production, whereby audience and cast were meant to intermingle, but he made it a dark and sinister one.

The stories of the young lovers and the antics of the rude mechanicals, rehearsing their play, were overshadowed by a primeval atmosphere.

The woodland fairies were not the frothy and benevolent kind as normally depicted. Here they were swamp-like creatures that slithered and crawled like the un-dead. They acted as barriers throughout the wood over and under which the lovers had to pass.

Was Carl successful in his interpretation? Yes and no!

Whilst there were many good things about the production to commend, it disappointed in two areas.

Having enjoyed promenade performances in the past, I was not happy with it being used for this production. It was a mistake not to clear the studio and leave the rostrums in place. By doing so not only was the acting area reduced thereby cramping the action but it encouraged more of the audience to be seated and not to interact. I know that the rostrums were used at times as acting areas but I felt that the disadvantages of this outweighed the advantages. I wondered how cumbersome things would be with a larger audience than the one on the first night.

Whilst appreciating the desire to bring out a primeval side to the play and to make the fairies dark forces –- and there were some interesting and innovative touches — it was felt that this was overemphasized thereby unbalancing the play, with the action often being held up.

The strength of the production lay with the actors.

There were excellent performances from Nick Hedges as Oberon, ruler of the fairy kingdom — a sinister, magical figure -– and from Lex Hills, an earthy and sensuous Titania. Her seduction of Bottom, was wonderfully funny.

As the object of her lust Paul Wilson was sheer delight. His blustering Bottom was played with great gusto, in the exaggerated style of a Victorian Actor Manager. It was a pity that his transformation into an ass was not better achieved. If it had to be restricted to just the ears of a donkey then at least give him some that stood upright and not floppy rabbit ones. Also a little braying laughter would have helped.

It was pleasing to see the continuing progress made by Chris Nunn and Kieran Burke, late of the Youth Theatre, as the love-struck rivals. Charlotte Grimes made a sweet Hermia in contrast to Imogen Miller-Porter's feisty Helena.

The rude mechanicals led by Tom Robinson's Quince provided great fun with the play within a play sequence.

The evening was an interesting and entertaining one, albeit there were times when the Director's interpretation needed further explanation.

Barrie Jerram