A Midsummer Night's Dream

Wed 13th – Sat 16th June 2012

reviews

Tom Ryder

at 18:53 on 18th Jun 2012

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The course of true love may not run smooth in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but Castle Theatre Company’s production of the enchanting Shakespeare classic undoubtedly did.

Set amongst University College’s quaint Fellow’s Garden, the fairytale was brought to life by a stellar cast, many of whom had a lengthy list of Durham credits to their name already. Familiar faces abounded, and impressed with typically polished performances.

The audience were seated on the lawn, which was littered with twigs and tree stumps. This naturalistic feel was enhanced as the fairies of Fairy Queen Titania (Tash Cowley) emerged from the surrounding ivy in the opening scenes, and the setting proved perfect, as actors entered from either side of the stage as well as from behind and even through the audience. This had the effect of immersing us totally in the action. Viewing would have been obscured to audience members seated further back, yet director Sarah Peters had this covered as she made excellent use of levels which ensured nothing was lost.

From then on there was little else to do but to sit back and enjoy the showcase of talent on display, as the mischievous Puck (James Hyde) meddled in the affairs of two romantically troubled pairings, all under the stewardship of the merciless Oberon (Feargus Leathem). The fairy ensemble demonstrated their variety of talents as they lulled Titania to sleep with the tightest of harmonies. Lysander and Demetrius (Michael Forde and Guy Hughes) competed for the affections of the alluring yet catty Hermia (Elissa Churchill) whilst at the same time infuriating the envy-ridden Helena (Kate Hunter). Helena’s despair was undeniable and Hunter and Hughes played off each other brilliantly once more. Their performance was seamless and Durham Student Theatre will mourn its losses next year as they depart at the end of this term.

A particular mention must also be made of Peter Quince (Sam Kingston) and his hapless acting troupe. Poor Nick Bottom, played wonderfully by Gareth Davies, succumbed most cruelly to Puck’s trickery yet remained good-humoured throughout. And the exaggerated, broad Yorkshire accent adopted by many of Quince’s players served to make their plight all the more comedic.

The players finally got their chance to perform their piece at the close of the play, which saw several cast members join the audience on the lawn, making the ‘play within a play’ effect complete. An unforgettable conclusion saw Bottom’s character Pyramus ‘drown’ himself in an audience member’s orange juice, before bludgeoning himself to death with a shoe and suffering a stabbing at the hands of a supermarket pasta-fork. The audience were utterly inseparable from the plot.

CTC’s performance was of the highest calibre and it would be well worth catching the play before it tours the country in the coming weeks. The production team are also to be congratulated on a superb choice of setting. See this cast while you can - many of them will go on to great things in Durham and beyond.

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