JOHN Crabtree took on the task not only of directing and designing the first public production in Amateur Players of Sherborne’s new Studio Theatre in Marston Road, but also taking one of the least enviable roles in the play, that of the tyrannical father Egeus.
He didn’t want a flimsy, whimsical take on Shakespeare’s story, but a darker, harder look at the familiar text. His cast certainly provide the angry energy he sought, with Martin Williams and Sylvie Lord doubling the roles of Theseus/ Oberon and Hippolyta/Titania, and the “rude mechanicals” also playing Titania’s fairies.
Rachael Alexander is terrific as the mischievous Puck and Adrian Harding a lovably egocentric Nick Bottom, shining through the clever ass’s mask. Casting Quince as a woman (“Mrs” rather than Peter) shines a whole new light on the role of the dictatorial director, and Bev Taylor-Wade does it to perfection. Richard Jones’s pantomimic Thisbe, cues and all, is a joy.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream can be viewed as a play about jealousy, parental domination and abuse of physical power – all of them more apt for nightmare than gentle dream. John Crabtree’s production opens with a bout of Kendo between Duke Theseus and his betrothed warrior queen Hippolyta. Both the looks and the words are bloody and violent. I couldn’t believe for one moment that these were equals and lovers, but they did find a little gentle humour by the end.
The young lovers, played with gusto by Lucy Bennett, Jake Terry, John Robinson and Rosy Sargent, have all the fun they can with their teenage romances, enchantments and mistakes of the night.
The production, with some original music composed by Annabel Thornton, is full of invention and fun, and a perfect opening for the new performance space in the week of Midsummer’s Day. It’s on until Saturday.