A Midsummer Night's Dream

Date 17th April 2014
Society Stevenage Lytton Players
Venue The Sishes
Type of Production Play
Director Sophie Ashby

Report

Author: Vicki Avery

This production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Nights Dream was directed by first time Director Sophie Ashby. This up and coming young director put a modern twist on the play, setting it in London in the 21st century. And although a little skeptical at first, I must say it worked surprisingly well.

The Lovers, who are usually, to be honest, a bit bland - were so believable. These lovers were teenagers. They were full of energy, subject to massive mood-swings, ready to fly off the handle at any suggestion of criticism or opposition. Just normal teenagers! And it worked really well. Gemma Davies as Hermia, Grace Maynard as Helena, Tom Beirne as Lysander and Tom Bright as Demetrius were perfectly cast and worked well as a team.

The Mechanicals, too, were very funny, but without being over-the-top, as they are sometimes played, and without convention. Corinna Winnett as Peter Quince had all the pretensions of the would-be "artistic type lovey!", even to the shawl casually thrown around her neck and the dark glasses, whilst Richelle Brundle’s “Bottom” was brighter than usual, which made her all the more funny. Both roles played by women please note. Peter Kirkby  played a convincing Francis Flute, and Bob Sage, Dave Slade and Tracy Saunders rounded up the team with individual comic traits and great facial expression.

The Fairies were lovely and floated on and off with grace, each however, displaying their own particular little character. Well done.

Sophie Routledge played a convincing Titania but I was not always convinced that her movements and body language seemed natural. Delivery of lines was good but was all the pacing about really necessary. Me thinks not. When Titania fell for the transformed Bottom, there appeared to be awkwardness and the magic was lost. ??

The most difficult part of the play to bring off are the scenes between Theseus and Hippolyta (often doubled, as Oberon and Titania but not in this version), especially the first scene which has a fair amount of scene-setting to do. In this production I felt more tension was necessary between them: Hippolyta (Jess Marvell) needed to show more emotion at being wooed by Theseus (Andreas Georgiou) for she did not seem really convinced about the marriage.

There are criticisms, of course, both of the interpretation and the performances, but they are insignificant in comparison with what director first time director Sophie Ashby achieved. Richard Absalom as Oberon and Amy Clynes as Puck, showed just how experience and enthusiasm can work perfectly together. Richard’s cloven hoofed interpretation and Amy’s sense of stage presence, especially when balancing on the flower strung arbor where a match so rarely seen. She will not fail to learn from this experienced young actor. It was a pleasure to watch.

Scenery was well constructed and Costumes and Makeup were appropriate, especially the fairy makeup.

This was a new venture for a new director and I hope she continues to grow and learn. Congratulations to all.