Cast have fun bringing woodland fairytale to life
A Midsummer Night's Dream, Talisman Theatre, Kenilworth, until June 23.
What a pleasure to see this mixture of young and experienced actors on stage at The Talisman for Shakespeare's most popular comedy.
And it isn't always the older members of the cast who have the most fun - although Graham Underhill as Bottom certainly made the most of his part along with his fellow "mechanicals" who seemed to be having the time of their lives.
I always feel Kenilworth has a personal attachment to these mechanicals because Shakespeare could well have got the idea of their haphazard performances when the tradesmen from the Coventry guilds were called to the castle during the visit of Elizabeth I.
In the younger camp I particularly enjoyed Leigh Walker as the determined Helena, stamping across the stage in pursuit of Demetrius (Guy Devine), at first rejected, then feeling she is being mocked by him, along with Lysander (Henri West) and Hermia (Clare Sykes).
"You vow, and swear and super-praise my parts...when I am sure you hate me with your hearts..." rants poor confused Helena before they all fall into a terrific, well-choreographed fight.
Meanwhile, of course, the real culprit is the mischievous Puck - "Lord, what fools these mortals are" - played with supreme confidence and much rolling of the eyes by Nick Douglin (right) as he engaged the audience in his pranks. Interesting to see that Nick has played this part before, which probably explains his panache.
Ben Wellicome and Sam Harris made a convincing Oberon and Titania - Ben looking suitably conniving as the fairy king as his queen becomes besotted...with a donkey.
At the start of this performance on Monday there were a few first night nerves on display but these evaporated after 10 minutes, especially after Bottom and his merry crew of Quince (Kerry Frater), Flute (Colin Ritchie), Snout (Dawn Spencer-Morris), Snug (Rachel Rathbone and Robin (Jason French) had been on stage.
Director Chris Carpenter's production was perhaps a little short of the magical side of A Midsummer Night's Dream, but it more than made up for that in absurdity - perhaps even a little long on absurdity towards the end, but what a laugh.
And her decision to include not only a little Mendelssohn background music but also a few Pink Floyd tracks like Dark Side of the Moon, really adds to the surreal feel of this woodland fairytale.
For tickets go to: www.talismantheatre.co.uk
Main picture: Guy Devine as Demetrius, Leigh Walker (Helena) and Henri West (Lysander) in rehearsal.