A Midsummer Night's Dream

William Shakespeare
Clwyd Theatr Cymru, Mold
(2008)

Production photo by Catherine Ashmore

Tim Baker's new production for Clwyd Theatr Cymru of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, which opened in the Anthony Hopkins Theatre on Wednesday, is a splendid piece of stylish ensemble playing, bursting with Welsh hywel and magical charm.

Not one single classical allusion of the Elizabethan tale is missing, from Theseus and and Hippolyta's classical origins, with their fascinating Indian influences, to the infectious mischief which envelopes the entire audience.

So well integrated are players and characters, a sine qua non for a play which mixes both anyway, that star picking is rendered pointless. Yet not even Shakespeare himself can resist the opportunities for pure exhibitionism - such as in Phylip Harries' lovely performance as Bottom. Small wonder he has only recently completed his annual pantomime as "Dame" Dolly Dumplings.

All, however, is in proportion since Nick Bottom is no more outrageous than any of the six fine mechanicals. True, there is a moment when one feels these artisans are struggling a little too hard for our laughter which is freely given. Perhaps, like the rest of the cast, their team performance will commend itself without recourse to exhibitionism.

Baker's well-schooled production is enhanced by Mark Bailey's simple arched setting, which greatly facilitates speedy comings and goings beneath a permanent, watery moon.

Transformation to the magical forest is achieved by falling leaves, among which our fairies, at least, hide themselves at will until, revels ended, the stage is swept clear for the closing nuptials.

And a nice feature of the costumes is the Indian attire adopted by the fairies, not only distinguishing them without triviality from the mortals but also illustrating their own important hierarchy.

Pivotal to this production are the twinned performances of Bradley Freegard and Siwan Morris in the twinned roles of Theseus and Hippolyta, Oberon and Titania. Not only is this following the poet's original approach, it also facilitates a plot already brimming with changes in allegiance and personality.

Puck appears in the athletic persona of Simon Watts, shaven-headed and delightfully mischievous. While, this being Wales, all the company - and certainly the elves and goblins - play and sing with aplomb, which all adds to the mysterious magic of a wedding celebration.

"A Midsummer Night's Dream" continues at Clwyd Theatr Cymru until Saturday 1st March after which it transfers to the New Theatre, Cardiff where it can be seen from 4th - 8th March inclusive.

Reviewer: Kevin Catchpole