Monday, 18 April 2016

"A Midsummer Night's Dream"
Lace Market Theatre.
Who'd have thought 400 years after his death we would still be enjoying the great poetry that Shakespeare wrote for the stage. This is one of his best comedies but in today's terms this could be seen as a fore runner of the "rom-com", After all, this is a love story for three of the couples featured which ends well for all three.
I'm not going to precis the story as you should know the tale of Hermia and her love triangle and the mischievous fairy, Puck who, on orders from the fairy king Oberon, throws the fairy spanner in the works, but then gets it all sorted out just in time for the happy ending.
Many people still have a vision of Shakespeare as being hard to understand, but this is not so. In the hands of a great cast and wonderful director, this is not the case and they all bring out the obvious comedy of the play while showing the dark side of the fairy kingdom. yes, they aren't all Tinkerbells you know!
Hermia is in love with Lysander but Demetrius also loves Hermia (Classic love triangle) but Hermia's father, Thesus, has told his daughter that she marries Demetrius or dies. well, what's a girl to do? Obvious, she plans to run off to the Shakespearian equivalent of Gretna Green to marry. Hermia tells her best friend forever, Helena, who has a massive crush on Demetrius, who only has eyes for Hermia and dismisses Helena's advances.
So what does a best friend do? Only tells Demetrius what's going on and all four end up in the fairy forest and that is where the fun really hits the fan!
Shakespeare's innovative writing is the fore runner of dream sequences where the dream characters are also part of the "real life" in the play characters. just think how well this worked in "The Wizard Of Oz" and the "play within a play" farce style plays.
Andy Taylor (Thesus/Oberon) shows the two sides of the characters with the "master of the house" kind of father and the almost cruel King Of The Fairies, Oberon.
Kay Haw (Hippolyta/Titania) again matches the contrasts as the loyal wife of Thesus and the opposing man eater Queen of the fairies Titania, who falls for a right ass!
Ali Patrick-Smith returns to the stage after a break of a few years and makes me wonder why? Why she has stayed away from the footlights for so long? She delivers some lovely emotive lines of the bard, especially when Lysander is under the influence (of Puck's magic) and again when the spell has been lifted.
Lysander, one third of the love triangle, is played by Martin Pikett along with Matthew Thomason as Demetrius. They make a brilliant pairing as rivals and there was one part when i almost expected a Morecambe and Wise style skipping off of the stage complete with unsheathed swords aloft. Matthew plays the "posh" character so well and says a lot in many of his "down the nose" looks.
Poor Helena, played by Chloe Senior, What a poor taste in men she has, but you can't help who you fall in love with i suppose. Chloe puts in a wonderful, at times quite scatty, performance, adding to the comic feel of the play.
Christopher Collins, as Puck, plays the mischievous fairy, darker than i have seen Puck played before, and this really suits the character. He's almost spiteful to the humans and he relishes the mischief he causes. Chris also looked like he was revelling in the role. Chris also doubles up as Philostrate when not in a dream sequence.
The "players", the equivalent of the modern community theatre crowd, are hilarious in their play for Thesus and the crew. Robert Wildgust (Quince), Ian Smith (Bottom) who was the tops at making an ass of himself, Hayden Bradley (Flute/Thisby) who has a natural comedy feel, Tom Orton (Snout/Moonshine), who also seems to lose a dog along the way, Stephen Herring (Snug/Lion), the campest lion I've ever seen, and Linda Croston(Starveling/Wall) who also gave a wonderfully comical portrayal of a hole in the wall, believe me you have to see the subtleness of this piece. A beautifully crafted troupe of comics.
Not forgetting the other fairies, Lucy Wakefield (Peaseblossom), Sally Nix(Cobweb) and Lesley Brown (Moth). Immi Lea (Mustardseed) and also David Dunford (Egeus).
What a wonderful cast! And what a production team as well. Jane Herring directs the piece with just the right balance of comedy, which i feel has been enhanced to bring out the true comedic writings of Shakespeare. Jane also balances this with just the right amount of darkness within the fairy kingdom. A great contrast of light and shade which, with Shakespeare, i imagine, isn't the easiest job for a director.
Loved the costumes; the colours and richness of the clothes brought to life the period of the piece. Not just for the women but some great garb for the male actors as well, and that goes for the wigs.
Brilliant set design by Mark James, as was the lighting, designed by Simon Carter, creating a magical atmosphere. Also creating a mood with the original music which was written for this production by Piotr Wisniewski.
I just loved the whole overall production of this piece of classic theatre. Classic but you get the feeling of a more modern atmosphere, created mainly, I feel, by the comedy elements that have been brought to the fore, while retaining the Shakespearian skeleton of his wonderful, eloquent stage poetry.
"A Midsummer Night's Dream" is on at the Nottingham Lace Market Theatre until Saturday 23 April 2016. Do not miss this production, and if you've not seen any Shakespeare before (God forbid), make this the one to turn yourself on to the Bard. Where have you been the last 400 years?

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