Brighton Fringe 2009
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Festival Shakespeare Company
Venue: St Ann’s Well Gardens
"Bring family and a picnic to Shakespeare’s most enchanting comedy", we are invited. Reunited for the first time in fifteen years, The Festival Shakespeare company bring us an open air production of one of Shakespeare’s finest comedies in the lovely St Ann’s Well Gardens.
I arrived with some friends and my five year old nephew to see a Midsummer Nights Dream on a just below comfortable English spring evening. I watched other people settle down with flasks of hot chocolate, camping chairs, picnics and duvets and instantly felt jealous and niggly.
However the moment the play began I was swept off my feet by the production which was gripping, touching and truly hilarious! We all snuggled under the one blanket and had double joy sharing the peels of laughter from five year old Tendo who thoroughly enjoyed the show and still carries a torch for the actress who plays Hermia. Claire Raftery directs this buoyant and dynamic ensemble in a truly entertaining piece of theatre which makes for a great night outside.
The play is intimately staged in the blind gardens of St Anne’s Wells Garden. The simple and pretty setting is used to its full, with the double act Puck cycling round the whole area and a bower for Titania being made in the trees.
As usual, Claire Raftery, an artist and designer as well as a director, stuns us with some excellent design ideas. The fairies look like something out of a Magritte painting with chiffon masks and bowler hats, whilst the two pucks look like Dali- eccentric and stylish.
Every word of the text was clear and meaningful, I wasn’t sitting there feeling bored and sleepy whilst waiting for the famous speeches. (I often do this whilst watching Shakespeare). The whole play had a rhythm under it that never sagged for a moment, and the text was what it should be- dynamic and thrilling to listen to.
The ensemble worked very well together and seemed to be thoroughly enjoying their work, which instantly infected us with enjoyment.
All of the younger actors played the lovers. This was a strong idea- their energy made these scenes explosive and hilarious. They seemed to have a great connection with each other and each one of them charmed the audience thoroughly. The physical comedy in the lovers’ scenes was choreographed and performed immaculately. The double Puck also had a great comic connection..
The comedy was one of the biggest strengths of the whole show, performed so cheekily and really bringing the text to life in ways I hadn’t heard before.
By the end of the play when the night sky had darkened, blossom was flying in the air and the actors were lit by the stage lights I got what I came for- the magic. The Dream, with all its fairies, visions, and theatre within theatre has to have magic that touches us on another level. This did.
I would thoroughly recommend going to see this beautiful show.