A Midsummer Night's Dream

Date 12th November 2022
Society Richmond Amateur Dramatic Society
Venue The Georgian Theatre Royal
Type of Production Play
Director Jim Brown

Report

Author: John Holliday

RADS Autumn show was the very well known but very rarely performed A Midsummer Nights Dream, in fact RADS themselves have only performed 6 of the Bard’s plays since forming almost 90 years ago.

Shakespeare has a very precise use of English language and the use of Iambic pentameter I guess could overwhelm many societies and actors. Well under the very experienced direction of Jim Brown and a very talented cast of mixed ages and experience RADS had nothing to fear as they brought us a very slick, punchy, and relevant production.

With almost 3 separate casts in this production, The Mechanicals, The Fairies and the Romantics; RADS had one of their biggest cast sizes of recent years however this certainly did not mean that the quality dipped at any point.

The main change to the show was the decision to set the show in the 1950’s. This was most evident in the opening scene as Theseus, played with great strength and confidence by Scott Fenney tried to restore some order over the love quartet of the young lovers. Playing their Commanding Officer he is approached by Egeus whose anxiety and frustration was excellently portrayed by Warnock Kerr by his daughter, Hermia’s love for Lysander, a soldier well below her station and that she should marry Demetrius who agonizingly is being pursued by Helena, a close friend of Hermia.

The 4 young lovers were brilliantly played throughout the show and the 4 of them bounced off each other excellently, whether in the pursuit of each other’s love or rebuking each-others affection when the love spells take effect, it was brilliant to watch. Lysander, played by Hugo Grieve and Demtrius played by Ross Hutchinson were superbly cast and both commanded the stage flicking from hardened soldiers up for a fight to love struck teenagers whimpering around the stage.

The girls however, Laura Murray as Hermia and Charlotte Finn as Helena, both new members to RADS were exceptional; their grasp of the language and making it current worked so well. Every word was used with meaning and the pace never once dropped, adding this to great visual acting displays made us believe single part of their character. I absolutely loved the scene where they were coming to blows, it looked exhausting but was fantastic to watch.

Whilst chaos ensued with this quartet there was also more twists in the Fairy World as Oberon and Titania’s feud would end up linking all the stories together. Oberon, played with great authority and grace by James Sanderson was to cast a spell on Titania to make her fall in love with the 1st person she should lay her eyes on – unfortunately a slip up by his faithful aide Puck would mean the need for more spells and you guessed it more mistakes and ultimately more love twists to correct.

Puck, played by Aidan MacFarlane was sensational in this role, clearly spoken and with an almost gymnastic approach to the role, he glided around the stage with a youthful yet mischievous attitude and his interaction with Oberon was just how Shakespeare would have seen this role played.

The fairies are a huge element of this production, and it was great to see RADS use the original Georgian Theatre woodland scenery for this, this created a wonderful setting for all the ins and outs as the fairies glided their way through the scenes. Led by the graceful and elegant Titania, played with real conviction and at times real force by Rachel Hall, the other fairies in very traditional costumes really drew us into their mystical world.

In the backdrop to the main story we have the Mechanicals, preparing to present a play to be chosen as the entertainment for Theseus’s marriage to Hippolyta, played by Natasha Wood. This troop were hysterical from start to finish and each of them had such great characterization and personality. Charles Lambert (Snug), Doug Clayton (Starveling) Howard Firth (Snout) and Lee Bowles (Flute) all being expertly put together and organized by the wonderful Stewart Kerr as Quince, but all having to take a slight back seat to the flamboyant and over enthusiastic Bottom.

Bottom has a huge involvement in this show culminating in the chaos when, wearing a Donkey’s head, Titania under a spell falls in love with him and this role could not have been more perfectly cast than Mike Walker. This role was absolutely made for him, from the wonderful overacting as he made an argument to be cast in every role to his continuous high pitch hee-haws throughout the second half. Well done, Mike you absolutely brought the house down.

The troop of Mechanicals had so many great moments from the allocation of their parts, to getting lost in the woods and finally to the production at the end of the show. This mini production gave a chance for each of the Mechanicals to shine, from Snug’s Lion through to the wall it was wonderful to watch and a great ending to what was a wonderful show.

The other cast members all took on numerous roles including Fairies and members of the wedding entourage and each of them looked perfectly in place and in character throughout.

From very clever yet simple setting, ideal costumes, slick scene changes and very effective lighting the very clever direction from Jim Brown making the Georgian Theatre an ideal stage for this production.

If other societies could handle the complexity of Shakespeare, then there would be many more productions on offer, as it is I am so delighted that RADS will be returning with another of the Bard’s classics in the future.