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REVIEWS & CAST

2009
Much Ado About Nothing
A Midsummer Night's Dream

2008
A Midsummer Night's Dream

2007
Henry V
As You Like It

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2006

Romeo & Juliet
A Midsummer Night's Dream

-
2005
A Midsummer Night's Dream
The Taming of the Shrew

-
2004
Twelfth Night
Much Ado About Nothing

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2003
As You Like It
Hamlet

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2002
Romeo & Juliet
A Midsummer Night's Dream

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2001
Macbeth
The Taming of the Shrew

-
2000
Twelfth Night
Much Ado About Nothing

-
1999
Hamlet
As You Like It

-
1998
Henry V
A Midsummer Night's Dream

-
1997
Romeo & Juliet
The Taming of the Shrew

-
1996
As You Like It
Much Ado About Nothing

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1995
Twelfth Night
A Midsummer Night's Dream


 
 

Tour 2002

Romeo & Juliet
A Midsummer Night's Dream

Starring:
Wayne Sleep
Rebecca Ritters
Robert J Williamson

Full cast details below

Performed at:
Nottingham Castle
Kirkstall Abbey, Leeds

2002 reviews

It didn’t look good at the interval. The umbrellas were up, and we were all eyeing up dry places, just in case the heavens opened for Act II. Some people had already donned their waterproofs, while others were forlornly trying to protect their sandwiches from going soft. The skies about Kirkstall Abbey looked grey and menacing; Shakespeare would have undoubtedly put it better. Not so much A Midsummer Night’s Dream as an early August nightmare.

Fortunately, even the delinquent British weather couldn’t spoil a memorable evening of open air theatre, which saw a packed ‘house’ positively revel in this much loved comedy. In fact, about twenty minutes into the second Act, as if by fairy magic, the heavy drizzle threatening to soak the front rows suddenly ceased - and everyone was left to enjoy an outstanding night of magic and mischief.

Set in ancient Athens, the story of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is comically confusing; as Theseus, Duke of Athens (Robert J Williamson) and Hippolyta, Queens of the Amazons (Sarah-Jayne Steed) prepare for their wedding, news comes from Egeus (John Ioannou) that his daughter Hermia (Anna Delchev) is refusing to marry her suitor, Demetrius (Gordon Kemp).

She prefers the company of Lysander (Tama Matheson), and the two promptly elope into the woods, where spirits and fairies lurk. In the meantime, Helena (Erin Christy), who is in love with Demetrius, tries to curry his favour by telling him of Hermia’s flight. Demetrius immediately sets off after Hermia, with the besotted Helena in hot pursuit.

Elsewhere in the wood, a rag-tag bunch of local artisans are practising a play, which they hope to perform on the Duke’s wedding day. As they rehearse "most obscenely", a mischievous spirit called Puck (Wayne Sleep) indulges in a spot of magic - and the fun and farce really begins.

Watching open air theatre is a very unique and intimate experience, and comes highly recommended. Seated just an arm’s length away from the actors, you can practically sniff the greasepaint. Small emotions and expressions, usually lost in the expanse of modern theatres, are laid bare for you to ingest and interpret.

Of course, being set almost entirely outdoors, A Midsummer Night’s Dream lends itself beautifully to open air theatre. And how nice it is to hear raw voices, untainted by booming amplification, with the actors forced to pit their projection skills against the vagaries of natural ambience. The lighting is simple and the set minimal, with occasional and thoughtful use of sound. Pyrotechnics are used to provide a memorable finale.

Productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream always tend to be slow starters, and this one is no exception. But as the plot thickens, the cast really get into their stride. From the four young lovers, Delchev shines like a beacon, giving a wonderfully animated and passionate performance as Hermia.

Those who love this play for the amusing antics of Nick Bottom will certainly not be disappointed, although the excellent Derek Crewe doesn’t portray him as the usual loveable clown. With rolling Welsh accent, Bottom is aloof and scornful, with an elevated opinion of himself. The amusement flows from his self-delusion, failings, muddles - and a hairy encounter with the mischievous Puck.

And what a Puck; casting Wayne Sleep as the naughty nimble spirit is undoubtedly a masterstroke. He flits around the expansive venue effortlessly, at times demonstrating some breathtaking ballet skills. He is no less effective as an actor either, enticing the audience into the plot with an enchanting and impish performance.

This production is also memorable for some outstanding cameos. As Snout the tinker, Christopher Mellows can’t have more than a few dozen lines, but still manages to put the audience into hysterics through his actions and expressions. Likewise, as an oily and smug Philostrate, Richard Costello makes a lasting impression, despite being on stage for just a matter of minutes. Natasha Kemball is also devastating as Cobweb, flaunting a singing voice that sends a shiver down the spine.

As co-directors, Williamson and Frank Jarvis are to be loudly applauded. The BSC ’s aim is to encourage a wider cross section of society to embrace and enjoy Shakespeare’s work, and the pair certainly aren’t afraid to use slapstick methods and high farce to achieve these ends.

But what’s even more commendable is the way Williamson and Jarvis have directed the cast to pay close attention to the delivery of dialogue, using strong emphasis and exaggerated actions to communicate the meaning of the lines. Willamson’s personal triumph is even greater when you consider he takes on the role of Fairy King Oberon, in addition to Theseus.

Reviewed by Alex Waddington

 

Rebecca Ritters and Wayne Sleep

Rebecca Ritters      

Rebecca Ritters and Tama Matheson as Romeo & Juliet

   
     
   

Robert J Williamson and Gordon Kemp as Mercutio & Tybalt

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