Shakespeare would fully approve a deep blue June sky (give or take occasional showers) and a make-do use of stage and props – no holds bard, one might say. The Queen’s Park play area became, prompting our imagination, the duke’s court or the fairy-haunted woods outside Athens, neither place nor historical time trammelled by any limits. So the two young heroes, Lysander (Glyn Williams) & Demetrius (Andy Fitch) were brought pillion on rival motorcycles. The comic sub-plot “mechanicals”, in other words urban plebs, provided pre-play tunes, with guitar, tambourine and woodwind. The story is timeless, though with some contemporary punch: “How chance the roses thus do fade so fast? / Belike for want of rain” suggests a hosepipe ban. By contrast, “Every pelting river made so proud / that they have overborne their continents.” suits a recent headline: “A Month’s Rain in 24 Hours”.
Brought before a duke of Godfather-style coat and trilby, Hermia (Elaine Hartley) has a greater dilemma, inviting legislation against such domestic slavery. How often we read, “Young girl Escapes Prospect of Forced Marriage.” She runs to the woods to be with her man.
The four young lovers certainly proved that “the course of true love never did run smooth”, though the boys’ wrestling testosterone was no match for Helena’s (Hannah Nuttall) black belt karate, nor she for Hermia’s clawing frustration.
Puck (Amelia Kirk) clearly relished the mayhem, despite rebukes from a brooding Oberon (Chris Chambers) - top marks go to Chris, for some great original music too.
Anyway, the mechanicals prepare a play, which incredibly is chosen for the royal variety nuptial celebrations. The self-assured (but muddling 1 Cor.2:9), college blazer toting Nick Bottom (David Mckechnie) wants to play every role and sing, but is deterred by the shorter, in overalls but not overawed, tactful but determined director/prologue, Ms. Quince. (Maria Quinn)
Bottom is by magic made an ass, leading to many bottom or horse jokes, with much horseplay and a crazy donkey laugh, set to love the feminist, mischief loving Titania (Nicky Chambers).
While the exhausted four lovers slept on, interval drinks were at hand, the coffee and coffee cake proving top notch. Night drew on. Their wings glowing iridescence, every fairy, with apt variety of expression and gesture, was catching bugs, gossamer strands or elusive dreams.
The newly wed regal Hippolyta and Theseus, and the now tranquil mortal lovers watch and laugh at the eventual performance of the play-within-a-play, wherein the bard mocks virtually every fault of bad acting – ham exaggerations, hopeless punctuation, excessive alliterations, muddled meanings and mispronunciations, such as the running gag on Ninny’s/Ninus’ tomb, daft props, and – all credit to Chris Chambers and his company – a visually hilarious group of players, Thisbe (Andy Mulquin) for example resembling a lanky Brad Pitt caricature with vampire slap/lipstick humour. Add the solid/stolid Wall (Robert Rowe), with Northern accent and packed lunch, the now sultry, now stroppy Moonshine (Kate Lavery) and the cuddly Lion (Rachel Mountjoy).
The whole play was interspersed with non-vocal, added humorous invention – the rejection of tendered bouquets by Helena, the Eric ‘n’ Ernie exit dance by Bottom and First Fairy (Rachael Ansell - compare Oz’s Glenda), and the assault course treatment of the playground facilities, everything in short lending credence to Puck’s view – “What fools these mortals be!”
More pictures at www.anotherwaytheatre.co.uk