A Midsummer Night’s Dream on Brownsea Island

THIS year marks the 50th anniversary of the first Brownsea Open Air Theatre production, after founding director Joyce Caton visited the National Trust open air theatre at Polesden Lacey (established in 1951) and thought “I could do this … and how about on Brownsea Island.”

Would health and safety legislation allow the idea if it was newly-hatched today? I doubt it.

But all that is history, and the current BOAT company decided to put on two plays this year for the anniversary celebration.

For the first, director Denise Mallender decided to invite some of the earliest performers to step the Brownsea sward again, so I was thrilled to be invited as a special guest to sit in on the wedding celebrations at the end of the play, reliving my youthful memories of appearing in Twelfth Night and As You Like it in the early 60s.

The Dream, on stage on alternate nights until 2nd August (but sold out) is the perfect Brownsea play. Set in the woods outside a mythical Athens, it follows the parallel universes of the Duke and his court and the workers in his city and that of the fairies who live in the woods, coming out invisibly at night to play havoc with the lives of the unsuspecting humans.

It’s passionate, romantic, comical, thrasonical, mystical and hugely entertaining.

The king of the fairies, miffed that his wife won’t let him have a ward of hers as his page, sets his malicious fairy Puck to wreak revenge in an elaborate practical joke that goes wrong.

Two young couples discover that love is unpredictable, specially when fairy potions are involved. The local am dram group puts on an achingly funny play to entertain the Duke and his new bride, the Queen of the Amazons.

Fairy lights twinkle in the forest, and calm is restored in this lovely production, designed by Bob Nother, lit by Kevin Wilkins with costume design by Gary Hayton.

There are outstanding performances by Pete Griffiths as Bottom, Neil Mathieson as a much funnier than usual Lysander, Kyle Miley as the green Puck, and a very interesting reading of Oberon from Paul Mole.

But BOAT is always an ensemble operation, and every one of the performers works to ensure that the plays are meticulously performed, bringing new insights to familiar stories and utilising the unique magic of the island in Poole Harbour.

The second play is Pericles, on from 7th to 16th August, and there are still tickets available.


Posted in Reviews on .