A Midsummer Night's Dream

Mon 22nd – Sat 27th August 2011

reviews

Jade Symons

at 00:39 on 27th Aug 2011

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WDG’s production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is the theatrical equivalent of a home-baked apple crumble - warm, comforting, and full of heart.

Having never seen a production of this play before, but being familiar with the script, the fairies of my imagination were lithe, slight young things. As it was, the more mature age of many of the cast members lent an endearing, and often delightfully comedic edge to the performance.

There were few surprises in the piece - this was good, solid, traditional Shakespeare, performed without the aid of any bells or whistles. The audience know the story, the format, and the characterisation, and the company came together to provide a performance that didn’t disappoint. To be honest, whilst watching the play, I got the distinct feel that I’d seen it all before, giving a wonderful feel of nostalgic enjoyment.

Many of the big laughs in the performance were provided by the “Local Women’s Institute”, who also doubled as Titania’s fairy court. As a group, they brought a delightfully warm atmosphere to the stage, and were the source of the very few experimental moments in the piece.

Special mention has to go to Amanda Holyoak, for providing what was the most charismatic wall I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing perform. Also to Jack Gamble, for a delightfully bumbling, awkward and nerdy Demetrius, and to Sally Willcox, for her wonderful interpretation of Bottom. Also well deserving a mention was Russ Crooks as King Oberon, for a beautifully composed performance - and a fabulously deep, commanding voice.

Whilst the play didn’t offer anything particularly innovative to whet the appetite of the audience, there was no tired body language amongst the sizeable gathering to suggest that anyone wasn’t completely focussed on the action.

A good effort from WDG, and I look forward to seeing them at the Fringe again, with future performances.

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Xandra Burns

at 12:02 on 27th Aug 2011

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When my reviewer and I enter the premises, we are told to be discreet because the actors might be put off by seeing us in our bright red jumpers with critical pens. The Director’s Note in the program emphasizes that the company chose this play for its evenly distributed roles, and notes that all of the actors are volunteers seeking simply the opportunity to act. However, all of this preemptive concern for the actors’ feelings proves to be unnecessary: while not the best production of Midsummer I’ve ever seen, it is certainly one of the better ones, and the insecurity surrounding it is puzzling.

The word that best suits the production is “careful,” meant in the most positive way - the set, costumes, and effects are simple, but each component has purpose or meaning. The acting goes along the same vein, lines and actions are delivered clearly and deliberately. There is little to criticize because they play it safe, but this causes a lack of urgency sometimes, particularly during the relatively tame lovers’ fight scene. Not a single cast member shows discomfort or nervousness. Standout performances include Ailish Ford as an adorably disgruntled Helena, Jack Gamble as a nerdy Demetrius (who, under Puck’s spell, attempts to seduce Helena cool guy-style), and Sylvia Smith as Titania, who carries regal presence and power, paired effectively with Russ Crooks as Oberon. The play’s only major weak point is in the staging; although the space seats audience members on three sides, nearly all of the blocking faces forward.

While their decision to set the play in the 1950s lacks reason, the creators embrace this choice - again - with care. They take advantage of new opportunity for humor with such details as explaining Egeus’s disapproval of Lysander by dressing him in a leather jacket, and playing 1950s music (nearly all of which features “dreaming” in the lyrics) for delightful fairy dance scenes. The Mechanicals, written as a group of men, are portrayed instead by the Women’s Institute - one of the cleverest creative twists I’ve seen in any production of this play. Although some parts don’t quite translate, such as Flute’s objection to playing a woman, others change meaning elegantly - the group’s earnest desire not to frighten “the ladies” with their play becomes chucklingly ironic.

This production presents rather than pushes the play, but it is still witty, inventive, light, and enjoyable, capturing the spirit of a magic breezy summer.

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