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Watermill Theatre - A Midsummer Night’s Dream

10th May to 16th June

Review from Newbury Theatre.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream follows Paul Hart’s Watermill Ensemble productions of Romeo + Juliet and Twelfth Night, and it’s the best one yet. In fact, it’s brilliant. Hart has taken many of his team of young people from the previous productions, added some new ones and come up with a production that is inventive, energetic, musical (yes, we get songs, and not with Shakespeare’s lyrics) and funny.

OK, we expect the mechanicals to be funny, but not so much the lovers. Here, they are funny, which makes them much more interesting. The other big change is Eva Feiler’s Puck, played as I’ve never seen him/her before: not confident, cocky and dashing about all over the place but diffident, timorous, scared of Oberon. This worked amazingly well and gave added poignancy to the play’s closing lines from Puck, “Give me your hands, if we be friends” delivered tentatively towards the audience, with relief when we responded with enthusiastic applause.

And what a good idea to add modern(ish) songs, belted out (with Tyrone Huntley in fine voice) or as a background to the action. Cupid and I Put a Spell on You, obviously.

Clever, too, to include some signing. Sophie Stone, playing Hermia, is deaf and there is some subtle signing between her and Huntley as Lysander which excludes Demetrius (Joey Hickman) who can’t sign. Similarly, the other lovers can exclude her by turning away so that she can’t lip read. Later in the run there are two fully signed performances with signers in costume and included in the action.

Emma McDonald, playing Hippolyta and Titania, was unfortunately taken ill on the first Saturday but the Watermill managed to get Rebecca Lee, who was in Romeo + Juliet and Twelfth Night, to step in and learn the part in two days before press night on Monday. She appeared on stage with a copy of the script which she only needed to refer to a couple of times. To get the words and moves so perfectly in such a short time was an amazing achievement and she thoroughly deserved the ovation she got at the end. Brava!

The cast were all excellent, but Victoria Blunt as a diva-ish Bottom deserves a special mention. The death of Pyramus is always good for laughs, but here she excelled herself. And the chink in Offue Okegbe’s Wall was very popular with the audience.

The key points of Katie Lias’s set were a scaffold tower and what you might call a big box, both on wheels and moved around as needed, as well as a full width red curtain which dropped down from time to time and provided the foreground for shadow puppets from the cast. The lighting, from Tom White, was very much in your face (literally, at times) and added hugely to the impact of the show.

This is a superb production, and the best Dream I’ve seen. Congratulations to Paul Hart and the team.

PAUL SHAVE

Review from the Newbury Weekly News.

A kind of magic

...truly a Dream you wish would go on forever

A Midsummer Night's Dream, at The Watermill, Bagnor, until June 16

The Watermill's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream is an absolute joy. Inventively directed by Paul Hart, this vibrant magical performance sparkles with the enthusiasm and energy of the splendid cast.

Eva Feiler beautifully crafted a shadowy childlike Puck in this refreshing new interpretation of the well-known story.

Jamie Satterthwaite is impressive as Oberon, who is determined to take the Indian changeling child from the fairy queen Titania. Due to the illness of Emma McDonald, Rebecca Lee, a regular Watermill performer, stood in at the last moment as Titania and Hippolyta and gave a sterling performance.

The four lovers were excellent. Sophie Stone, who has many connections with Newbury, gave a gutsy portrayal as Hermia, with just the right spirit. Tyrone Huntley was an engaging Lysander. The scenes in which they both used sign language to communicate were powerful and moving. Huntley also has a splendid singing voice with an endearing rendition of My Baby Cares For Me.

Joey Hickman was suitably wimpish as Demetrius and Lilly Flynn's Helena was feisty, particularly in the fight scene with Hermia.

Leading the rude mechanicals, Victoria Blunt was outstanding as Bottom – a true tour de force performance, bubbling with energy and buffoonery.

The talented ensemble brought a zestful, fun-filled playfulness, as they practiced their play Pyramus and Thisbe, to be performed at the Duke's wedding, with hilarious results.

Music is an integral part of the show and showcases the talent of the gifted actors, with some unexpected tongue in cheek renditions including Jay Hawkins' I Put a Spell on You, as Puck applied the magical flower juice.

Then there is Blue Moon, Rogers and Hart's romantic song that perfectly fits the atmosphere.

Karie Lias has created a fluid set design with a scaffolding tower – red curtains and the heavy ropes of an old fly tower suggesting a Victorian theatre. The costumes are simply exquisite and Tom White's imaginative lighting creates an enchanting atmosphere.

There is so much to enjoy in this spirited performance.

It is truly a Dream you wish would go on forever.

ROBIN STRAPP

There are reviews from The Stage ("fizzing with humour, charm, and just a touch of chaos... a particularly light and delightful fairy tale... an overall sense of sheer fun that’s both rare and refreshing... " - 4 stars), The Spy In The Stalls ("this joyful new production... such a delightful Dream" - 4stars), WhatsOnStage ("the company transform a story familiar to many into a tale of the unexpected with game-changing casting coups... expect the unexpected in an evening of magical delight" - 4 stars), There Ought To Be Clowns ("an unalloyed pleasure... full of innovative touches which work separately like a treat and also combine into something really special... the world of Shakespeare in all its exhilarating imagination").