A Midsummer Night's Dream is the perfect introduction to Shakespeare, being one of the bard's most accessible works after all. Which probably accounts for the youthful audience. Indeed, worthy of a mention is the passion of English lit students in the city of York these days. Not for language, fine prose and a gorgeous set but for eating boiled sweets with incredibly crinkly wrappers, heightening the drama with the well timed opening of a can of drink, or rifling through a bag to find their mobile telephone on the off chance that a new text message has arrived.
Let's hope that the co-directors of this quite brilliant effort, Damian Cruden and Lucy Pitman-Wallace, and the fine cast of twelve players, who must have heard the rabble, didn't take offence. Although, with an emphasis on the fun and frivolity of this particular production, one almost feels that they wouldn't mind too much. That's the point, really. If anything is going to get you excited about Shakespeare - even the world-weary reviewers who attend - it is the prospect of an evening of good, honest laughter and sweet, sweet eye candy.
Designer Dawn Allsopp has worked a miracle with the simplest of semi-circular gauzed sets and a bit of water. Well, I say a bit of water. The centre stage water feature, home of Titania for lengthy periods, is put to great use and is, along with Richard G Jones' lighting, quite wonderful to look at.
Following the trend for on stage 'water sculptures', water pours down spectacularly from somewhere up above. The water feature is also the performance area for some slapstick, banana skin style fights, directed by Richard Ryan. Those looking for a forest will also be stunned by the use of colourful silk material draped around. Original music, with tribal qualities, comes courtesy of one-man band Christopher Madin, who is complemented by the haunting sound design of Matt Savage.
This makes it sound as if the performances are superfluous. They're not. Gareth Tudor Price and Andrina Carroll are both compelling doubling up as Theseus/Oberon and Hippolyta/Titania respectively. Michael Glenn Murphy is a livewire as Puck, while Malcolm Scates offers a jolly, matey, happy-go-lucky Bottom. The rest are, simply, as good as Shakespeare performers get.