Dream production

A Midsummer Night's Dream, William Shakespeare, presented by Heartbreak Productions, Christchurch Park, Ipswich, July 2

Lynne Mortimer

A Midsummer Night's Dream, William Shakespeare, presented by Heartbreak Productions, Christchurch Park, Ipswich, July 2

ONE of the glories of the English summer is open air Shakespeare and, as so often, this one was weather affected although, unlike Wimbledon, rain did not stop play.

An accomplished ensemble, the six actors performed all the parts with aplomb - giving the audience a clear distinction between the rude mechanicals, the immortals folk and the Athenians although, for some reason, the latter were referred to as gentry - an unnecessary tinker, I think.

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It was also nice to see the lovers distinguished by colour co-ordinating them - Demetrius and Helena in blue and Lysander and Hermia in pink.

Funny, pacy, energetic and precisely directed it was a 'sit back and enjoy' occasion of the first order.

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The story goes that both Lysander and Demetrius love Hermia but Helena adores Demetrius and they all head out into the forest. Seeing the love tangle, Oberon, the King of the Fairies, decides to try and sort things out, with the predictable muddle causing all sorts of havoc.

Meanwhile Oberon is angry with his wife Titania so when he spots a boastful Bottom trying to play all the parts in a play to be presented at the Duke of Athens' wedding celebrations, he gives him an asses head and gets Titania to fall in love with him… causing more havoc.

The clever staging included small pits at each of the four compass points, into which characters would jump or fall in order to facilitate a swift exit for one of the startlingly quick costume changes.

The immortals, in white with masks that turned them into something reminiscent of Lord of the Rings' elvish were choreographed to make their movements strange and other worldly while, at the very worldly end of the spectrum the mechanicals all work on the same building site. Snug's mobile phone ring tone is the Village People's YMCA. The tune becomes a recurring theme.

Since Peter Brook's famous Dream in the Seventies, I have never felt the performance of the mechanicals' Pyramus and Thisbe entertainment in the final scene has quite lived up to its comic potential. This one came closest with some original ideas and a genuinely hilarious death of Pyramus, as Bottom, playing the part to the full, repeatedly stabs himself with a spirit level.

It all ends happily, of course, with the lovers paired off and Titania and Oberon reunited.

As for the weather, the performers even took account of that, with some topical references to the rain and we even got a bit of Hippolyta's “sweet thunder” over the sound system.

Lynne Mortimer

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