A Midsummer Night's Dream

Date 10th September 2014
Society Holt Dramatic Society
Venue The Courts Arboretum, Holt
Type of Production Play
Director Rachel Elsy

Report

Author: Nick Lawrence - Councillor

Holt Dramatic Society’s experience in using the amazing space at the Courts Arboretum was a major factor in this production’s success.  Even the last minute hitch with the seating arrangements could not dampen the spirit of adventure and all the challenges of performing in the open air were well catered for.  A production of this nature takes considerable pre-planning and on First Night it appeared that everything was calmly going to plan.  If there were any difficulties they were well disguised.  Arrangements were well made including the provision of wonderful weather!  A chill did start to be felt until about 9:45 p.m. but a suitable blanket dealt with that.      

This well-loved play is always a good one for outdoor productions as its very setting is most appropriate to the natural breezes and birds settling.  The distance from the road contributed to the stillness of the “auditorium” and, in general, one could see and hear adequately.  The site gave opportunities for sleeping in leafy bowers, a spacious court, a twinkling forest of fairy lights and a delicious moon overlooking proceedings.  J. M. Barry would have been impressed.  Lighting provided sufficient assistance and concentrated attention to the “acting area”.  This was subtly handled and as the September evening drew in played an increasingly effect role.   The decision to go with Edwardian was most appropriate with a garden performance and Fairies at the bottom of the garden and giving the Court a delightful elegance.

Any writer relies on his/her words being heard and performing in the open air can emphasise difficulties in this area.  HDC actors were clearly audible throughout.  Most spoke with a clarity which ensured the audience got every nuance of the wonderful language, but also with a naturalness that made the dialogue immediate and realistic.  In this play Shakespeare does help with some beautiful poetry which is a joy to speak and this must have been great fun to deliver in the open.   The courtly language was well projected without becoming stilted.  Meanwhile the Lovers brought variation to their lines, each clearly defining their characters and using their differing rhythms and vocabulary effectively to delineate their characteristics and bring out the humour.  The physical nature of their scenes was well handled and most effective.  In fact, over all it was good to see the dialogue reflected in the actors’ bodies.  Fairies were charming but their playful, spiteful sides were also revealed.  Their lines well clearly delivered.  The Rustics managed their natural prose very well with not a line lost but never resorting to pushing the voice.

The varied scenes were well planned and rehearsed bringing a reality to the dialogue and an ease which relaxed the audience.  Each scene was its own entity but maintained the overall feel of the presentation.  There was naturalness of movement and character among the mortals and a sense of the ethereal about the Fairies.   The humour of the piece was well brought out without resorting to over playing.  This was particularly obvious among the Rustics who resisted the temptation to “over do it”. 

Although I was not certain about a female Puck and missed some of the masculine interplay, the relationship between Puck & Oberon worked well in this context.  Both characters were well defined and their scheming was most enjoyable.  They had a good foil in Titania and her balletic minions.  The junior Fairies were excellently used and performed extremely well.  It was good to see their individual skills being used to effect and there was some exciting talent on display.   Their dances were charming and well performed.      

Finding sufficient males to go around a play by Shakespeare can be a real nightmare and I quite understand and appreciate the use of ladies in certain roles.  It did take away from the “male” jokes and why a man had to play Thisbe.  And yet it all worked and the fun was greatly enjoyed by the audience. 

“The Dream” does come round quite often and one wonders whether one can sit through yet another production in a garden, but at no point did I feel disconnected with this production.  While being faithful to the original intentions the production was innovative enough to make it interesting and thought provoking.  There was some excellent interplay between the characters and the audience was brought into the story with ease.  A most entertaining evening which honoured The Bard without any sign of stuffiness, maintaining the high standard I have come to expect from HDC.