Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The Lace Market Theatre. Nottingham

four star

As Shakespeare wrote in his comical play A Midsummer Night’s Dream “And as imagination bodies forth/The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen/Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing/A local habitation and a name…” Thus he could have been describing this creative and visually poetic production of his play as presented this week by The Lace Market Theatre in Nottingham.

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darkly glittering production

Director Jane Herring and designer Mark James have created a darkly glittering production where the emphasis is on the foreboding Athenian woodland and even darker personalities and deeds of Oberon (Andy Taylor), Titania (Kay Haw) and Puck (Christopher Collins). The superb lighting effects by Simon Carter give this amateur production a highly professional feel. Original music composer by Piotr Wisniewski adds to the otherworldly feeling of danger and comedy. The magical costumes and wigs made by The Lace Market Theatre costume department are superb.

Taylor and Haw have a great chemistry together throughout and especially in their transitions from bickering Duke Theseus and aloof Queen Hippolyta to revengeful Oberon and proud Titania. The Lace Market Theatre audience are truly graced with Taylor and Haw’s eloquent delivery of Shakespeare’s beautiful poetic text. Their characters have a richness borne from both actors’ experience and their affinity with the character’s motivations. The speeches are approached and conveyed with a naturalism that makes them totally understandable to a contemporary audience.

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Overall the mutually satisfying actor-audience comprehension and enjoyment of the play is largely borne out of all the actors performing in a naturalistic style. The definition of all the characters’ personalities is very clear and this reviewer loved the clever and distinct personalities of Titania’s troop of madcap fairies played by Lucy Wakefield, Sally Nix, Lesley Brown and Immi Lea.

Collins, as the mischievous Puck is no cheeky and likeable Robin Goodfellow but rather a scary mortal hating sprite who even in his eventual moments of putting his wrongful spells to right is reluctantly sly in his redemptions. One has the feeling that his malevolent character would happily let the mortals continue to live the nightmarish existence he has temporarily bestowed on them were it not for the dominance of Oberon – King of the Fairies. In a very enjoyable evening of some truly excellent performances Collins’ portrayal of Puck is utterly outstanding.

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The young lovers Hermia (Ali Patrick-Smith), Helena (Chloe Senior), Lysander (Martin Pikett) and Demetrius (Mathew Thomason) are delightfully amusing once under Puck’s mistaken spells and their physical comedy is one of the highlights of the play. David Dunford is authentically commanding as Egeus.

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And so, to get the the bottom of this review and the central character of Bottom played with just the right amount of bombast and fun by Ian Smith. Having become the object of lust for a very sexed up Titania who can’t keep her wandering hands off the fly buttons on Bottom’s trousers, Smith is subtly amusing in his sexual confusions. Haw’s lusty and intelligent interpretation of Titania also reveals points of frustration that this ‘attractive’ mortal is not equally thoroughly under her spell but take him to her flowery bed she does. Bottom returns with his donkey tail telling a naughty tale of his night’s revelries.

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Much of the action in this play revolves around real or illusory love and the word ‘dote’ appears more than once. Interestingly the word derives from the early German dotten meaning to be foolish or deranged. As this production is going to be performed in at the Die Kaeuze Theater Karlsruhe in May this year this reviewer would say that both audiences in Nottingham and Karlsruhe would be thoroughly dotty to miss it.

Audience members familiar with A Midsummer Night’s Dream will anticipate being amused by the dotty antics of the common labourers Bottom (Ian Smith), Peter Quince (Robert Wildgust), Flute (Hayden Bradley), Snout (Tom Orton), Snug (Stephen Herring) and Robin Starveling (Linda Croston). The Lace Market actors do them proud and bring out the comedy perfectly. Their wacky in the Palace of Theseus production of the short tragedy of Pyramus and Thisbe is one of the most delightfully funny and original this reviewer has had the pleasure of seeing. To misquote Peter Quince they ‘do not offend and it is done with great good will’.

And so, the great and good William Shakespeare, currently enjoying his 400th anniversary, would be proud of this production at Nottingham’s Lace Market Theatre. It may soon sell out so get your tickets booked whilst ye may.

Reviewer: Phil Lowe

Production photos by Mark James

A Midsummer Night’s Dream runs until Saturday 23rd April.

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