The Reviews Hub **** – ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’

A Midsummer Night’s Dream
John Roberts


A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Grosvenor Park Open Air TheatreFrom the start this opening production for the Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre’s 2013 season, may come across as a little too traditional, almost a little pedestrian, but as the plot devices settle into their stride and as the sun slowly starts to set, Alex Clifton’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream really takes off, not only in comedy but also in colour, both in the textual form and in reality.

In the magical world of midsummer, where lovers are crossed and fairies take a playful stance, the forest comes alive with colour bombs… ones that here get thrown around in great abandonment, bringing vibrant splashes against the rather neutral whites of the lover’s costumes – a rather strong directorial decision to ignite the rather plain but open set design by Jessica Curtis, what is clear though is Clifton’s expertise with text, he manages to lead his cast to give a rhythmic, melodic yet crystal clear delivery which is so often lost in other productions to cheep gimmicks and contemporisations.

The difficulties in creating a REP season, is getting the right cast together that not only serves the vision of the season in the right way, but also serves the needs of the individual production being presented and on the whole Clifton’s cast work remarkably well, creating a unified ensemble full of merriment, song and even a little jig or two.
Quirky casting is one of the keys to success in this production, Victoria Gee’s confused and fierce Helena is the perfect foil to Claire Redcliffe’s more sober and besotted Hermia whilst it is the male counterparts that really steal the show, Simon Coombs is a delightful Lysander, full of dryness and wit, whilst Samuel Collings’ love lorn puppyesque Demetrius is playful and energetic and rightly gains the biggest laughs of the night.

Excellent support is given by identical twins Danielle and Nichole Bird as the fun loving and mischievous Welsh Robin Goodfellow (Puck) with farcical entrances and exits galore you can’t help but be enticed. Maxwell Hutcheon is a wonderful and flustered Peter Quince, and Owen Findlay’s cheeky Flute is warm and well received. Graham O’Mara gives a resplendent portrayal of Bottom, really coming into his own when playing an ass… quite literally!

As one would expect some compromises have to be met, and here it is unfortunately the rather awkward casting of Chris Vincent as Oberon/Theseus, who rather than being the ultimate in desire and manliness we get a Kenneth Williams inspired creepy uncle, the kind you generally stay away from at weddings and celebrations, so it is life a little bit confusing as to why the feisty and brilliantly played Titania/Hippolyta from Krupa Pattani would be partnered with him… well I guess in this production love really is blind.

It may take a while for Clifton’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream to find its feet and for his concept to really come alive, but when it does, it proves what perfect fair this Shakespearian comedy is for outdoor theatre – especially when the sun shines as strongly as it did on opening night.