3:59pm Monday 22nd July 2013 in Theatre
I HAVE just driven home under a strange and fitting red slipper moon from a delicious production of A Midsummer Night's Dream that revealed the breadth and depth of Young Theatre Beaconsfield's talent.
Eleven remarkable actors played as many as three characters each in this production directed by Mark Oldknow, which was set on a stage as ethereal and fragmentary as a dream. Bounded on one side by a wood and on the other by Athenian ruins, a group of young campers fall asleep and then dream the play. Fairies wheel in luggage, out of which the slightest costumes and props are pulled to transform the dreamers into characters.
The intelligent costumes are almost unnecessary, so consummate is the skill of these young actors, from whose lips Shakespeare's lines fall and tumble, spill and fly with utter fluency. The pace of delivery was at times breathtaking but always comprehensible; Both Ewan McPhillips (Demetrius/Bottom - a very excellent and funny Bottom at that) and Alexander Northwood (Lysander/Flute) managed wit and meaning and more words per breath than seemed reasonable.
Katie Vowles' Puck was perfectly pitched, she was a vagabond and clown and sprite: put-upon and putting-upon mischief and highly compelling to watch, she also managed to turn a rather vile doll puppet into a truly moving boy that clung to Titania. (Played by Anna Reith who also played Hippolyta).
The young fairies (Zoe Askew, Zoe Kaye, Cat Jackson, Millie Kirlew and Fianna Smaje) were nicely smug, amused by the spectacle of it all and occasionally unsettlingly other. The challenge of doing Dream with a group of young actors is navigating the relationships between the lovers and this was directed flawlessly. The Hermia (Allie Baldwin)/ Demetrius/ Lysander/ Helena (Anna Howson) love square was plausibly painful and irritating to all the parties at times so that puppy love gazing and sighing and declarations of love did seem to deserve the physical rebukes, slapping and banging-heads-together that the women administered.
Tom McGrath and Anna Reith convincingly played the older lovers and were serious and mature partners as Theseus and his hard-won Hippolyta and spiteful and wrathful as the fairy ones. Anna seemed to grow impossibly in stature as her Titania refused Oberon's demands while Tom McGrath navigated a jaw-dropping feat of transformation: managing to play Quince - sober and then drink-sotted - at the same time as playing a very regal Duke watching his own performance.
The play within the play was suitably silly - the dearest lion (Zoe Kaye), a most amusing wall, and dear lord help me, a Thisbe who looked like a dame with a pink meringue of a wig and who, for just a moment, managed a second of real pathos before the exploding balloon bosom undid her.
Performance excellence is matched by technical skill in the company - all aged under 21! - so that the sound and lighting, both gorgeous, and stage management all felt seamless and it is almost impossible to find fault with this oh so pretty production.
By DANA KIDSON