Cambridge's leading amateur theatre production company

Established 1981

A Midsummer Night's Dream
by William Shakespeare   directed by Nick Warburton

The ADC Theatre, Cambridge, April, 2015

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A Review of A Midsummer Night's Dream
by Julie Petrucci

It is easy to see why The Dream is such a favourite and why it is, just possibly, the most watched play in the English language. For this play Shakespeare employed not only a wide variety of poetic effects and a prose exchangebetween the rude mechanicals, but also spells, charms, songs, rhyming couplets and blank verse. Everything about A Midsummer Night's Dream seems to be designed for the staging of spectacle and Bawds took us on a fantastical journey where dreams and reality collided with riotous consequences and, within minutes director Nick Warbuton's version established itself as bold, funny and vital. The play was exceedingly well cast; all portrayals were well executed and the projection of speech, so important in productions such as this, was excellent. It is relatively easy to keep track of the characters as they appear in clusters.

The four lovers though sometimes prove as difficult for us as it is for Puck to distinguish.
Hermia needs to be distinguished from the very similarly named Helena. Such a problem didn't arise in this case as we had very different but equally strong characterisations from Kate Cattermole (Hermia) and Amber Lickerish (Helena) two up-and-coming young actresses of whom we will no doubt see much more. That goes too for their two beaus Lysander (Jonathan Trotman) and Demetrius (James Barwise) who were not to be outdone and shone as brightly as their ladies, which meant we had some fine acting from all four lovers coupled with some lively comic moments. 

In Athens we had James Inman strong and aristocratic as Theseus in offering judgement and explaining the wedding plans to a worthy Hippolyta (Mandi Cattell). The most difficult part of the play to bring off are the fairly short scenes between Theseus and Hippolyta (often doubled, as Oberon and Titania but not in this version), especially the first scene which has a fair amount of scene-setting to do but both actors got things off to a strong start aided and abetted by Hugh Mellor who gave a very strong rendition as Egeus, a father wanting judgement, as he demanded the obedience of his daughter with barely controlled anger.

Completing the court in Athens was Rosemary Eason dignified and totally focused on the action as Philostrate Mistress of the Revels. The Mechanicals were a triumph of timing and comedy. Barry Brown as Peter Quince author of the play Pyramus andThisbe, to be performed before the Duke at his wedding coerced his friends to join in, and every word and gesture delighted as he encouraged his cast to warm up, whilst endeavouring to keep patience with an over enthusiastic cast member as he endeavoured to direct the action of the play. Helen McCallum was superb as Nick Bottom and she did not miss a trick on working with her colleagues in the rehearsal and performance of the play-within-a-play. Her vocal mannerisms and trot-like walk when turned to an ass were impressive. This was an exceptionally fine performance. Also within this play within a play, we saw an exceedingly good team effort from Guy Marshall as Flute and Thisbe, David Foyle as Snout and Wall (or fence in this case as he had run out of bricks!), bush, moon and dog from Mike Milne as Starveling, the every other word prompting and minuscule roars of the lion from Ken Eason as Snug and not to forget the very melodramatic and funny offering from Ms McCallum as Bottom/Pyramus. The rehearsals were funny but the performance was hilarious.

The protagonists in the other world matched the performance of the mortals without exception. An especially pleasingand clear-voiced Christine Stewart as Titania taking no nonsense in her quarrel with Oberon; loved her delightful fairies two of whom sang beautifully and all of whom had lovely movement as they floated about the stage with grace. Tim Wickstead working his spells and demanding the stage as Oberon certainly dominated demonstrating well his frustration with the athletic and mischievous Puck of Ian Nutt over the mismanagement of the magic spells; excellent performances and good relationships shown by these three in the woodland kingdom. 

Atmosphere was created and the magic began before the play by the beautiful music played by Emma Olley, Mike Milne and Gloria Milne plus the open stage which was visually stunning with a set designed by Roger Hall and Amanda Norman. The wicker bridge and the moveable tree (also wicker) were ingenious. Congratulations to both designers and the construction team. All this was enhanced by the splendid lighting design of Dominic Plunkett, ethereal sound effects from Chris Hay, superb make-up (especially the immortals) from Hannah Curtis and her team and beautiful costumes. The almost capacity audience was treated
to a magical performance with mischievous spirits running riot but with love winning through in the end. This was an absolute dream of a production.