A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Malvern Theatre Players
Coach House Theatre 23 June
Lee Farley writes for The Observer
Malvern’s long-running amateur theatre company, now in their 38th season, have resurrected their recreation of Shakespeare’s Globe for this expertly staged comedy. The imaginative design concept perfectly complements the magic of the play and the energy of Jan Greig’s production.
Shakespeare’s Globe in Southwark has been a huge theatre success story over the last 18 years. The history of its 25-year development and construction is an inspiring tale of vision and endeavour. Malvern Theatre Players’ company manager Chris Bassett built a replica for the Forum theatre in 2005 which has been brought out of storage ten years later to mount this production of Shakespeare’s fantasy of confused aspirations and questionable resolutions. The Globe is intricately linked to Shakespeare’s plays. His texts mention its details & features – the roof, the tiring house, the balcony. This production is an excellent example of how the relationship is developed between physical space and psychological drama. The space creates the perfect practical environment for overlapping scenes, eavesdropping and theatrical enchantment.
The play introduces us in turn to the three groups of familiar characters – the court, the mechanicals and the fairies. Malvern Theatre Players have assembled a wholehearted cast whose verse speaking is clear and well rehearsed. There’s an excellent momentum created via the dialogue’s simplicity, clarity and enthusiasm. Costumes are authentically Elizabethan and these traditional approaches to Shakespeare’s play are well matched to the historical environment created by the Globe design.
The emphasis on the play’s magical and ritualistic encounters works particularly well – Puck freezes the mechanicals’ discussion about who’s playing who in “Pyramus and Thisbe”; the fairies gleefully block amorous Bottom’s escape route; Oberon is invisible to Demetrius & Lysander. The Theatre Players’ squadron of mischievous young fairies are clearly revelling in any opportunity to mock and belittle the foolish lovers and deluded mechanicals.
Hermia and Helena take us on the play’s most demanding journey. Shakespeare’s heroines are never one-dimensional ciphers and exceptional performances from Faye Neal and Alice Porter illuminate the contradictions and questions raised by their imbalanced relationships. Both performances provide progressive, compelling and intelligent interpretations of the complexities of falling in and out of love with two unenlightened & unchivalrous men of the court.
“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is a faithful and animated version of an incredibly versatile play, performed on an expertly constructed replica of the ultimate Shakespearian venue. It runs until Saturday, get a ticket if you can and support Malvern’s indispensable community theatre company.