So, here I am again, watching the play that I’ve seen the most productions of – although the Scottish play is rivalling it! The Dream was my first Shakespeare, and recent productions have taken new approaches to the play. At the Bridge Theatre, it was Oberon who received the love potion and fell head over heels in love with Bottom, and my favourite production was Emma Rice’s at the Globe, making one pair of lovers same sex and bringing rapturous cheers from the audience when they kissed. Patrick Marlowe’s production takes the more traditional note, and has some inspiring performances, but diction is a problem from some actors, and occasionally it feels a little cautious. Castle Park Theatre is a wonderful innovation, but if it is to get stronger it needs to think bigger, and maybe using radio mics is an option when your canopy is the sky!
However, there is much to enjoy, and some excellent casting and doubling up showcases the skills of the company. Harry Bowen is an innovative Puck, using his walking sticks as wands and moving wonderfully though the space, impish and a little threatening. His relationship with Oberon, (a strong performance by Marcus Churchill, diction clear as bell), is clearly defined, we know who the Boss is! The lovers double up as the Mechanicals, which I was a little dubious about in the slowly paced first half, but they spark into joyous fun in the second. September Mead is a great Hermia and a surprisingly moving Flute in the Pyramus and Thisbe scene, with Brooke Parratt an excellent lovesick parring partner and a not bad Welsh Quince! Ryan Penny uses his comic timing to perfection as Lysander and Starveling, but the evening does belong to Joseph Alexander Rawling’s glorious, Mckellenesque Bottom, a part he appears born to play! It succeeds because he only upstages the others as Bottom, they work superbly as a team He is also plays Demetrius, and sometimes it feels as if two actors are on stage, such is his skill at switching character. Sadie Orlando is a severe Hippolyta, and some of this she takes over into Titania, and I felt she could have let her hair down more when falling in love, but is enchanting and has excellent stage presence.
It’s a wonderful innovation to have young members of local theatre school Theatricool involved in the show as the fairies and Snug. Understandably given their experience, it’s difficult to hear them, but they are clearly enjoying themselves and that is conveyed to the audience! Overall, whilst the production doesn’t break any new ground, the play speaks for itself and it’s an evening for the whole family, a perfect introduction to Shakespeare as well as those of us familiar with it!
Tickets are available for four extra shows that are taking place in Colchester’s Castle Park from July 19th. Tickets available at www.castleparktheatre.co.uk