A Midsummer's Night Dream

Date 15th July 2021
Society Sleaford Little Theatre
Venue Raucby Hall, near Sleaford
Play Play
Directo Maria Bates
Musical Director Ngel Creasey and Teri Clake
Choreographer Kelsey Pakes

Report

Author: Andrew Key


The onset of COVID has made many organisations think ‘outside the box’ over the last eighteen
months and Sleaford Little Theatre has been no exception. With normal business suspended they
came up with a first for the society, an open air production. And what an inspired and successful
move that has turned out to be.
Tickets for William Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ sold out in advance and extra
audience places were accommodated.
Arriving at Rauceby Hall near Sleaford on a lovely sunny summer’s evening, I knew I was going to be
in for a treat. What a tremendous setting for this most popular of the Bard’s comic tales. Idyllic
indeed. And with carefully measured out COVID secure seating I for one, felt incredibly safe and
relaxed. The welcome, as ever, from this Society was warm and wonderful after such a pause in
productions.
As Puck and the fairies presented a colourful, musically delightful opening to the play, the nearby
field of sheep joined in with the action from the beginning, their harmonious bleating seeming to
build to a crescendo at just the right dramatic points in the drama, without ever once detracting
from the action.
And nature played its part all through the production, the setting sun adding to the mystical
atmosphere of the ‘forest’, as if on cue, the stage enriched by the grandeur of the phormiums and
evergreens of Rauceby Hall’s long planted gardens.
This really was a quite exceptional production. Though 71 years young, Shakespeare is only a
recently tackled challenge by Sleaford Little Theatre but you wouldn’t have guessed that.
Maria Bates the Director somehow managed to pull this epic production together, starting with
Zoom rehearsals back in February and progressing to the venue more latterly, though only very
recently with the entire cast. She really did achieve a ‘dream’ of a play. And it was a real ensemble
piece with each performer complementing the others and generously sharing the limelight.
There were some lovely scenes during the play and some real emotion from the actors. Hermia,
played so convincingly by Helen Pack delivered many memorable lines, among them: ‘we must
starve our sight from love’s food,’ to Lysander, played wonderfully by Briony Sparrow. And then of
course there were her ingenious insults to Helena (Hayley Goymer): ‘canker blossom’ and ‘painted
maypole’ worthy of any soap opera duff duff moment.
The quartet of Hermia, Helena, Lysander and Demetrius (Caroline Johnson) worked so well together,
all well matched and equally confidently portrayed. Such a muddle of emotions from this
‘confederacy’ was delightfully acted out. Hayley confidently and professionally was not to be put off from delivering a marvellously performed soliloquy by a passing light aircraft. I’m sure Shakespeare’s own actors had far worse to contend with!
Quince (Kei Bailey) and his eclectic band of tradesmen-come-roving actors were a delight as they
heroically rehearsed an epic tale for the wedding breakfast. The wonderful comically well timed over
acting of Bottom (Laura Griffin) was somehow kept in check by the harassed Quince. Laura was a
bundle of energy from the very beginning, the addition of the asses head not slowing her down one
bit.
Fairy King and Queen Oberon (Tony Gordon) and Titania (Jo Warrick) skilfully manoeuvred us
through the story as the complications of Shakespeare’s plot were unravelled and finally resolved
before us. Indeed, every member of the cast had their part to play and their place to be throughout
it all and did not disappoint.
This production was indeed a team effort, but one performance really was so very exceptionally
convincing and entertaining. Joanne Moules’ Puck was right on the money. ‘Watch me go my Lord’
she said and watch her go we all did. Mischievous she was indeed as she manipulated the cast to do
her will. I loved Joanne’s accent and characterisation of this most iconic of parts. Very well done
indeed.
As the different scenes unfolded, the whole thing was knitted skilfully together by the most
wonderful music. Nigel Creasey and Teri Clarke, the Musical Directors produced a score to the play
that is still going round and round in my head many hours later. And Teri sang with the voice of an
angel, transporting us all back more than 400 years to those early Shakespearean days. The
ensemble singing and especially the harmonies were enchanting. Kelsey Pakes’ choreography
throughout was very sympathetic and appropriate to the story too. Costumes by Pam Volanakis
were entirely in tune with the magic of the evening.
As the play drew to a close and the sun was setting, the cleverly positioned coloured lighting gave a
new perspective to the denouement of the action. Mystical, magical, ethereal. The sound too was so
well executed ensuring we could all hear every word. Well done to all the production crew.
And so Puck drew the proceedings to a close and the audience made its way through the darkening
night to the car park.
Well done Sleaford Little Theatre on a quite mesmerising production of this wonderful play. The
setting, the acting, direction and production all came together to produce something quite
wonderful and long awaited by us all through the dark days of COVID. Jane Guest’s project
management must have been taxing at times to say the least.
Thank you SLT for entertaining us once more.
May we all soon meet again in the Playhouse. My very best wishes and thanks to you all.