A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM
by William Shakespeare.
Wadham College Garden Parks Road OX1 3PN To 26 August 2012.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm no performance 13. 20 Aug Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm Sun 12, 19, 26 Aug 5pm.
Sat 4 Aug performance at The Lamb and Flag Blagdon Hill Taunton RA3 7SL.
Runs 2hr 10min One interval.
TICKETS: 01865 766266.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 26 July.
Accessible open-air Shakespeare that’s light and lively but not superficial.
Such happenings at Wadham. Shakespeare’s comedy was a sprightly teenager when the Oxford College was founded, with no woman allowed on site other than the laundress, who had to be a female fitted for a Macbeth Witch rather than the nubile queen or ardent young lover the Dream requires.
Stereotyping seems in the air with the quartet of eccentrics we’re summoned to see by the College wall, as Theseus talks to wife-to-be Hippolyta on his mobile, and a mortar-boarded Egeus parades upright businessman-type Demetrius as preferred suitor for his daughter Hermia, whose hippy-like décor allies her with Lysander’s dressed-down scruffiness. So off they go, leaving unwanted Helena, towering on her platforms, donnishly delivering her analysis of the situation as if expecting us to take notes.
Then wheelbarrow-pushing Bottom whisks us round the College garden to meet Peter Quince. Antony Jardine, playing the play’s three male authority figures, is unrecognisable behind glasses and beneath college porter’s hat, mind firmly attuned to keeping inappropriate feet off the grass (director Gemma Fairlie’s not above a few intrusions into Shakespeare’s dialogue).
So it’s fairytime before we retake our seats – a nifty move which allies us with the supernaturals. Oberon’s relationship with Hiran Abeysekera’s irrepressible Puck, semi-incompetently carrying out Oberon’s semi-competent instructions, strikes more forcefully than the struggle with Titania.
Only the keenly amateur Mechanicals pass between fact and imagination. Such as they are; with several audience members helping out and Quince doubling as Thisbe, they are the production’s least successful aspect, though the device preserves a small-cast for their main roles.
Replacing Titania’s tiresome fairies with illuminated trees is a gain. But it’s with the impassioned lovers Fairlie hits home. It would be easy to miss much of Hermia and Helena’s quarrel through watching the rival blokes fighting. As they all emerge chastened from their chases and arguments, stereotypical costume and make-up elements removed, Shakespeare’s transformative power is easy to appreciate amidst the well-tended gardens possibly created during his life. Even if the ghosts of earlier Wadham alumni might be muttering how right they were to restrict the female presence to that lone laundress.
Puck: Hiran Abeysekera.
Titania/Hippolyta: Helen Bang.
Hermia: Joanna Calderwood.
Oberon/Theseus/Quince: Antony Jardine.
Demetrius: Alexander McWilliam.
Helena: Rebecca Naylor.
Bottom: Matl Pearce.
Lysander: Andrew Venning.
Director: Gemma Fairlie.
Designer: Brian Tucker.
Composers: Nick Lloyd Webber, James D Reid.
Costume: Adrian Lillie.