Monday, May 14, 2012

'A Midsummer Night's Dream' by William Shakespeare

14 May 2012

We started Voluntary Arts Week 2012 on Saturday by making the short journey to the TADS Theatre in Toddington. TADS is celebrating its 50th anniversary – which it shares with the Royal Shakespeare Company – by presenting its first ever performance of a Shakespeare play. Sue Sachon’s production of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ has clearly been a major undertaking for TADS: the theatre has been transformed for the occasion, creating a central stage area with seating on two sides and the greenery of the Athenian forest covering the whole auditorium. This spectacular setting (designed by Grainne Allen) is perfect for a wonderful performance that makes you wonder why it has taken TADS 50 years to get around to Shakespeare. Setting the production in the Edwardian era gives the play an added poignancy. It feels like a last hurrah for the old way of life – in which an aristocratic father is prepared to condemn his daughter to death for refusing to marry his preferred suitor, while the deference of the servants already seems old-fashioned and outdated. The rude mechanicals are dressed as cloth-capped labourers and bring to mind Robert Tressell’s ‘Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists’. Amid the mirth and mayhem, the impending shadow of the Somme hangs over these “hard-handed men”. There were some great performances: Michael Collins stood out as a mercurcial Irish Puck, Dave Corbett was powerful as Oberon and Steve Loczy and Cameron Hay show an impressive range of emotions as Lysander and Demetrius. Lea Pryer completely inhabits the part of Titania – convincingly amorous with the ass-headed Bottom though it is probably only fair to point out that he is played by Lea’s husband! Steven Pryer is a great comic turn as Nick Bottom but the show is stolen by the tiny young actor, Harry Rodgers: his performance, in a wig of flowing golden locks, as the bellows mender Francis Flute playing Thisbe (in the play-within-the-play) is hysterically funny. All of which reminds you what an excellent amateur theatre group TADS has become – and what a wonderful play ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ is: a triumph.

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