Shakespeare’s tale of sylvan enchantment is a favourite for alfresco performances. In the right natural setting (here the grounds of a stately home before moving on to Coram Fields) you don’t even need a set. And this summer you’d be unlucky to get a soaking rather than sunstroke.
Well, this was a case of rain stopping play, just as four deliciously punk fairies changed their tune from hard rock to soft lullaby to sing their Queen to sleep. Happily it petered out and Titania pluckily rearranged herself for sleep on the now rather damp ground.
The cast had already made their first impressions and the small but appreciative matinee audience had taken them to their hearts. Eleanor Lawrence’s Helena is a feisty tomboy not above hitching up her skirt and showing her drawers if it helps in her ‘fond chase’ of Charlie Palmer’s violently ungallant Demetrius. James Alex Hutchinson’s Lysander and Daphne Kouma’s Hermia are soppily in love, sharing private endearments – when Hermia’s not giving us tantalising snatches of Greek - for Kouma really is Athenian!
Those fairies sporting brightly-coloured wigs and accessories ranging from whips to cheerleader’s pompoms, a cross between Rocky Horror vamps and Grease’s Pink Ladies, burst on to the stage with terrific energy to take on Oliver Chatham’s wide-boy Puck. He wouldn’t have a chance against the combined girlpower of Joanna Fell, Kelly Roberts, Lisa Duffy and Suzanne Tidy, except that Lee Tyler’s menacing gangster Oberon has the power to zap anyone, fairy or mortal, who crosses his path.
The ‘Sarf’ London delivery gets in the way of the poetry though – and makes the bank where the wild thyme blows sound like a High Street institution. But Tyler proves he can speak the verse with his authoritative Theseus, and in both roles he’s well matched by Sara Knight’s spirited doubling as Hippolyta and Titania.
Director Paul Gladwin doubles too, giving us his rather likeable Bottom, backed up by a bunch of ‘Rude Mechanicals’ who live up to their names, delighting an audience well up for participation. Pyramus and Thisbe as presented by Russell Wootton’s Quince, is a fine display of coarse acting with Shane Armstrong and Luke Owen perfectly inadequate as Wall and Lion and Dean Michael Julien’s Thisbe outdoing even Bottom in his ineptitude.
This is a rather filleted Dream, with many speeches foreshortened. But you can’t knock the energy and straightforward storytelling of a company eager to please their audience and happily succeeding in doing so.