Writer: William Shakespeare
Director: Thom Sellwood
Reviewer: Joe Leigh
Set amid a gritty urban landscape, Quite Nice Theatre bring a thoroughly unconventional and entertaining production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream to fruition. The open air venue provides the perfect setting for this well known classic, and with the unusually pleasant summer weather out in full support the stage is perfectly set for this magical romantic comedy.
The talented cast of eight effortlessly perform the myriad of characters, with each actor taking on at least two rôles. The multi-rolling also ensures that the three interwoven plot lines of the performance not only flow effortlessly but are given equal weight and importance. The easy trap of overlooking the mechanicals or missing the humour of the lovers is one that productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream fall into all to often, however it is one that Quite Nice Theatre manage to avoid with ease. The lovers are as humorous as they are passionate, the mechanicals bold, strong and hilariously funny, and the faeries are anything but the delicate, tinkling creatures of modern fairy tales.
The entire cast perform their rôles with a superb demonstration of vocal and physical skill, and particular mention must go to David Gurney whose Bottom and Egeus are in such stark contrast that the audience is left feeling as if they are performed by different actors. Arguably the comic foundation stone of the play, Gurney’s Bottom captures the overbearing yet well intentioned dominance of ‘that one person’ found in any amateur dramatic group with sublime subtlety, while his Egeus is unashamedly brash and commanding.
The well known pair of regal faeries Oberon and Titania, performed by Will Guppy and Sarah Hope Morrisey, are vociferously passionate in their never ending quarrel over the changeling boy, with Guppy’s Oberon employing subterfuge and the skills of his mischievous servant Puck, performed by Alexa Hartley, to secure his dominance over his fiery Queen. Making full use of the open air space, these faeries become the meddling onlookers they truly are meant to be, often joining the audience when the mortal characters are on stage or hiding in the myriad of nooks and crannies throughout the space.
The four lovers; Hermia, played by Miranda Shrapnell, Helena, played by Georgia Neville, Lysander, played by Adam Boyle, and Demetrius, played by Alex Panetta, pursue each other through the enchanted wood surrounding Athens with a superb blend of love, hate and comic timing. Through employing slick interchanges and entrances/exits these four utilise the entire space in their dream-like chase with ease, and the momentum is maintained throughout. The pace builds with a well judged crescendo until its climactic moment, before the faeries’ magic brings the mid-summer dream to an end and order is restored once more.
The mechanicals’ performance of Pyramus and Thisbe is balanced perfectly, with the actors managing to portray a group of unskilled and laughable amateurs without compromising the superb quality of their own performances. Gurney’s Bottom and Panetta’s Flute perform the rôles of Pyramus and Thisbe with hilarious ineptitude, as Bottom seeks to steal the limelight while Flute manages to forget almost all that he has learnt. The result is purely comic, and produces laugh out loud reactions from the audience.
Director Thom Sellwood has once again utilised Reading Amphitheatre to great effect, while demonstrating his ability to produce unique and entertaining twists on well known theatrical works. Sellwood succeeds in creating a fast paced, highly comic production of this play that is all too often under performed, breathing life into this classic. A definite must see for Shakespeare fans and non-Shakespeare fans alike.
Runs until 21st July 2013