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Review of Midsummer Night’s Dream by Stamford Shakespeare Company at Tolethorpe in Rutland





Although Shakespeare is sure to have experienced his fair share of miserable British weather, the downpour on the opening night of A Midsummer Night’s Dream can’t be what The Bard imagined for his most summery of plays.

But that is all part of the joy of the outdoor theatre at Tolethorpe, at least for the audience, who are kept under cover. Come rain or shine the show must go on.

This year’s interpretation of A Midsummer’s Nights Dream at Tolethorpe captures an enchanting mix of love, magic and comedy - and Tuesday’s performance set the season off to a sensational start.

The stage was already wet before the show had started
The stage was already wet before the show had started

A Midsummer Night’s Dream makes a rather fitting choice for an outdoor theatre, given that much of the play is set in an enchanted forest.

There were a few near slips and spills but the actors, quite literally, weathered the storm.

In fact, the only real giveaway of the torrent of rain was the wonderful costumes becoming visibly more saturated.

The mortals in A Midsummer Night's Dream. Photo: Sheila Curtis
The mortals in A Midsummer Night's Dream. Photo: Sheila Curtis

It was hard to know whether to feel more or less sorry for Puck (Tom Johnson), whose outfit didn’t include a top. On the one hand he wasn’t weighed down by drenched clothes, on the other, having skin to the elements cannot have been pleasant.

The light-hearted play explores three main plot lines: the confused relationships among four lovers, a conflict between a fairy king and queen, and a group of amateur actors rehearsing a performance for the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Athens.

The historical setting for the mortal world in this production is late-Edwardian while ‘fairyland’ draws Elizabethan influences and blends perfectly with the natural setting of Tolethorpe’s wooded glade stage.

Stamford Shakespeare Company actors deliver engaging performances, the playwright’s language ringing as clear as a bell, which makes the unfolding plot easy to follow.

The Mechanicals in A Midsummer Night's Dream. Photo: Sheila Curtis
The Mechanicals in A Midsummer Night's Dream. Photo: Sheila Curtis

Standout performances include the likeable Richard Coville, perfect for Nick Bottom, a weaver who is turned into a donkey.

Clare Hayes is enchanting and powerful as Titania Queen of the Fairies, while Lucy Thornton-Reid and Alex Molyneux, bring natural and endearing chemistry in their roles as Hermia and Lysander.

Although the fairies in this play are not portrayed as the pretty creatures children read about in books today, the colourful lighting and dancing gives them a cheeky charm.

Most of the laughing out loud from the audience was in the final scene, when a group of tradespeople perform a play, with Bottom taking on the role of Pyramus and Francis Flute (Jude Major) taking on the female lead of Thisbe. Whether accidental or premedidated, several costume malfunctions, including Flute’s ‘womanhood’ rolling off into the audience, led to howls of laughter, rounding off the play with a rosy glow.

The first fairies and Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream. Photo: Sheila Curtis
The first fairies and Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream. Photo: Sheila Curtis

Costume designer Miriam Spring Davies and her wardrobe team spare no detail when it comes to the outfits.

The complicated and outlandish costumes of those in fairyland contrast with the human characters' more basic and traditional attire.

This is Stamford Shakespeare Company’s 15th production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and it certainly has kept the magic alive.

A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Recruiting Officer are being performed at Tolethorpe this year
A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Recruiting Officer are being performed at Tolethorpe this year

Those wishing to make an evening of it can take a picnic and admire the Tolethorpe Hall garden before the performance - 7.45pm on weekdays and 11.30am on Saturdays. Or dine in The Fig Tree restaurant within the hall.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is on stage at Tolethorpe in Rutland until June 22, and from July 8 to July 27.

Tickets are available from the website tolethorpe.co.uk or, if you cannot book online, call 01780 754381.



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