Wednesday, July 27, 2011


The Lord Chamberlain's Men at Hylands

Named after Shakespeare's own acting company, this enterprising outfit have it even tougher on their gruelling tours – no cosy inn-yard, but vast spaces, helicopters and flash photography.
The Lord Chamberlain's Men were back at Hylands again this year, with its sloping lawn, its “woods a league without the town”, to bring us A Midsummer Night's Dream unplugged, packed with magic and mirth.
Andrew Normington directed in a clear, almost intimate, style, with authentic music and some wonderful costumes helping to transport us into Shakespeare's world. No scenery as such, and none needed, but their fit-up stage made good use of its traps, and its balcony, where Oberon [Oliver Pengelly] and Puck [Morgan Brind] stood to look down on the lovers' tiff.
The girls – Tristan Bernays's troubled Hermia and Thomas Judd's outraged Helena – were outstanding, and Judd also brought us a lovely Snout. A cast of seven meant that the Mechanicals were reduced to three and a latecomer, but we had a goodly complement of fairies, in fetching black tatters. Peter Bray was an imposing Titania, and spoke the verse impeccably. I was initially unsure about Brind's stand-up Merry Wanderer – as if a dearth of apprentices forced one of the clowns to take the part – but his dry humour and powerful presence soon won me over.
Roddy Peters got to wear a proper ass's knoll as Bottom, and his Pyramus was suitably OTT; his Thisbe [Bernays again] even managed a moment of tenderness amongst all the slapstick and the hammage.
To end, not only a Bergomask, but Up and Down sung as a charming Round.

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