Time for another Shakespeare in the Park – and thankfully, this time the rain held off!
Presented by Chapterhouse Theatre Company, this was a very traditional Shakespeare production which didn’t throw up too many surprises. The cast of six (I couldn’t find the actors names online!) were forced to multirole, but thankfully, that wasn’t a problem for them, as the play lends itself to being well-suited to three almost separate sets of characters – the Royals, the Mechanicals and the Fairies. There was potential that this could cause some confusion in the closing scenes of the play, when the Mechanicals/Royals are brought together, but this was handled well, with members of the Royal family stepping in to perform in the Mechanicals’ play and thus avoiding any confusion between characters.
The multi-role element of the play was handled in a way that was not quite to my taste – the actors always left the stage and changed costume between each “transformation”, whereas I felt this was unnecessary, and created lots of pauses in the narrative. It would have been nicer to have some of the transitions between characters occur in front of the audience to allow scenes to flow better and to improve the pacing of the play. The characterisation of each character was very well done, so that it was immediately clear which character the actors were portraying, although the changing of accents between characters felt unnecessary.
The stand out performance, for me, was the part of Helena, which was played rather understated and felt much more realistic than any of the other characters. There was a tendency from some of the actors to slip into melodrama, which sometimes prevented you from forming a connection with the characters. Special mention must go to the role of Theseus, a more fun and camp interpretation of the character than I’ve seen before, but I enjoyed seeing this role in a different light.
The play of Pyramus and Thisbe, was, as ever, the highlight of the play, with a great performance in particular by the actor portraying Flute. However, I found Bottom to be rather annoying throughout the production, although his transformation into a donkey was very well realised and earned some laughs from the audience.
The production was very much aimed towards children, with some of Shakespeare’s words rewritten into nursery rhymes for the fairy scenes, which helped to break up some of the scenes and also worked as another way of distinguishing between the characters. Overall, a very enjoyable night despite some elements of the production feeling a little lacklustre.
Chapterhouse’s tour of A Midsummer Night’s Dream continues throughout the summer – you can find more information on their website: https://www.chapterhouse.org/
Tom Morley, July 2021