The Royal Shakespeare Company have celebrated the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death with a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. What made this production different is that the Mechanicals in the play were played by amateur performers from various places around the country. I saw the production at the New Theatre in Cardiff, with performers from the Everyman Theatre.
The production had a 1940s theme, with some elements of cabaret and jazz. The stage was relatively bare throughout, apart from a grand piano in which Titania (Ayesha Darker) slept.
If anyone thought that it would be easy to spot the amateur performers they would have been completely wrong. Everyman Theatre more than held their own against the professionals and their scenes were hilarious. Steven Smith was incredibly likeable as Bottom and Cari Barley’s timing as Quince was spot on. Amongst the professionals, Lucy Ellinson was fun and cheeky as an androgynous Puck, and Ayesha Darker was a suitably glamorous Titania. As for the lovers, I was initially a little disappointed. Hermia (Mercy Ojelade) and Helena (Laura Riseborough) spoke very quickly, especially Riseborough, and the verse didn’t always flow naturally. However, they definitely improved as the play went on and the comical fighting between the four in the second half was very funny.
I wouldn’t say that this was my favourite production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream but it was still a very enjoyable evening, and it’s fantastic that the RSC are giving amateur performers such a wonderful opportunity, as they will all also be performing at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-Upon-Avon.