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A Midsummer Night’s Dream review at Stafford Castle

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This is a bold and truly joyous production for which director Bill Buckhurst, taking the helm for the first time in the prestigious event’s 16-year history, deserves huge credit.

He’s set the story in Edwardian times and has largely dispensed with the more usual ethereal fairytale in favour of out-and-out comedy. Here, the Pyramus and Thisbe playlet is elevated from mere amusing interlude to an integral part of the performance, played for big-scale belly-laughs.

Australian Mark Little gives a comedy masterclass with his brilliantly outrageous Bottom. In the second act, he elicits roars of laughter courtesy of his shorter-than-short Roman soldier’s outfit, which is frequently in danger of revealing his Bottom in more ways than one. A tug of the costume here, a gesture there, had the first-night audience in hysterics.

He stops just short of going over the top and, happily, does not overshadow other fine performances, particularly from Louisa McCarthy, Claire Little, Joseph Chance and Ben Warwick as the bickering lovers and Jack Chissick as a delightfully funny Quince. Emma Atkins’s Hippolyta is seriously feisty, complementing an impressively charismatic Oberon, played by Lex Daniel.

Casting director Amy Ball has done a great job as there is not a weak link in the entire cast and each actor suits their part perfectly. Only occasional sound system glitches let them down on opening night.

John Brooking’s imaginative staging incorporates a giant playslide and several trapdoors, effectively used by a gymnastic Puck – Jonathan Broadbent.

Surely the Bard himself would approve of such rollicking good fun.

Production Information

Stafford Castle, June 29 – July 15

Author
William Shakespeare
Director
Bill Buckhurst
Producer
Stafford Borough Council
Cast includes
Mark Little, Emma Atkins, Claire Little, Lex Daniel.
Running time
3 hrs
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