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A Midsummer Night’s Dream

by on 16 September 2022

The Dream Unravelled

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

by William Shakespeare, abridged by Roger Warren

Putney Theatre Company at the Putney Arts Theatre until 17th September

Review by Vicki and Chris Naylor

As much part of an English summer as cricket on the village, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is part of traditional open-air activities of balmy days.  And this year’s Hurlingham Arts Festival featured Putney Theatre Company’s abridged version of Shakespeare’s magical summer show in a successful open-air run.   However, those record hot days of this balmy summer gave way all too soon to thunderstorms and heavy rain, and the show has is now transferred into the company’s own Putney Arts Theatre just across the river from Fulham’s Hurlingham Club, better known for polo, tennis and croquet.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, though, is more barmy than balmy, in its interwoven sub-plots and especially the knockabout comedy of the mechanicals.  However, although a favourite amongst children, the drift of these sub-plots may not at first be easy to unravel.

Now, this production is a must for would-be theatre-goers who may have been confused, or may not have understood A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  Roger Warren, the author of Staging Shakespeare’s Late Plays, has skilfully adapted the Bard’s best loved comedy.  He has cleared up some of the confusions in the plot.  The nonsense of the four groups, the court, the lovers, the mechanicals and the fairies are clearly demonstrated through the poetic verse, the prose and the clowning in this cut-back version.

Evoking a fairy bower, the set is a clever mixture of greenery and colourful flowers, an apt setting for this distilled adaptation.

A well-integrated cast have brought out all the play’s humour in a successfully entertaining production.

Students new to the play will find the character of Egea is not listed in Shakespeare’s characters.  Director Barney Hart Dyke has ‘fashionably’ changed the gender of Egeus, the gentleman courtier attending Theseus.  With versatile skill, Amanda Killman plays Egea, and Mustard Seed, a wistful dreamy, and a flute (the musical instrument, not to be mixed up with Chris Cully’s excellent Flute, the bellows-mender), as well as putting so much time and effort, we are told, into creating the costumes.

Sarah Perkins’ performance, packed with energy, clearly reveals the mind of Bottom, reinforced with powerful clowning skills.  Frances Bodian is an amusing Quince, whereas Megan Good as Snout makes an excellent ‘Wall’, wringing all the humour from the Pyramus and Thisbe scene, and also enchants as Cobweb.

Perkins is also charming in the entirely different role of Helena, and Sarah Sharpe is a believable Hermia, the friend of Helena whose friendship in sorely tested in the shenanigans of the plot.

Dressed in a bejewelled, pink, silk body costume, Penny Weatherall is enchanting as Puck, the magical yet mischievous sprite who, like will-o’-the-wisp, fleets and dances across the stage causing typical Shakespearian chaos.

The clever production by Barney Hart Dyke shows that he is successfully able to make it possible for one actor to take on two or three different parts.  Members of the Hart Dyke family not only direct but also produces, and Cait Hart Dyke plays the Amazon Queen Hippolyta and Titania, queen of the fairies, both with regal style.  Stuart Watson matches this regal style as both Duke Theseus and as the enigmatic king of the fairies, Oberon.

It is very impressive and admirable how remarkable well the cast keep the energy in the story going to create a memorable evening’s entertainment.  We can only regret the play is on for just three nights.

Vicki and Chris Naylor, September 2022

Photography courtesy of PTC

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