Venue: Floral Pavilion

Where: New Brighton

Have you ever seen a play which had such a good plot and fascinating characters that you wanted to know what happens to them? Well, Bev Clark in her play After the Dream has taken the four lovers from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream fast forwarded twenty years and has written a clever and funny play about this quartet of lovers. And like Will’s play this has comedy and pathos, farce and enchantment, some drama and a dose of magic.

Two decades on Helen and Dee seem to be blissfully happy and sharing their wedding anniversary with the less than contented Mia and Sandy. The scene round the drinks table has echoes of Alan Ayckbourn as it dissects the relationships with humour and truth. Into the fray three new-age travellers arrive but are they what they seem? From then on things will never be the same again and confusion, revelations and fresh pairings occur.

Keith Simpson is a confident and amiable but sometimes crusty Dee with Philippa Hipwell making a happy and dignified Helen obviously much in love with her husband. As Mia Val Marshall delivers some amusing scathing comments but underneath her apparent hardness reveals the hurt inside and as Sandy Adrian Davies shows the emptiness of his life under his fighting spirit. Melanie Smith is vivacious as the rebellious Faye and Mike Lockley, Calli Hughes and Mark Dawson lend magical support.

The play and the production get better as they go along and this talented company should have the confidence to cut (or at least make considerably shorter) the prologue in which the actors are less than convincing and the dumb show outlasts its welcome. The ‘new’ play stands alone as a clever and witty piece of drama with a particularly fine Act 2 in which history repeat itself and characters show their true feelings – the final duologues are riveting played with warmth, humour and a moving reality. And like the original Dream you want to know what will happen to the characters – perhaps there is a third play there?

After the Dream will grow in confidence and the magic will increase in an outdoor setting when the natural light will add its own enchantment. Let’s hope the weather is kind because this is a lovely way to spend an evening.

- Richard Woodward

*After the Dream is moving to the outdoors at the following places:

Sunday 24 June - Birkenhead Lower Park, 6.30pm (Picnics from 5.30pm)

Saturday 30 June - Royden Park Coach House, 6.30pm

Sunday 1 July - Melrose Hall, Hoylake, 7pm

Call 0151 666 0000 for further details