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Review: A Midsummer Night's Dream

Vinny Lawrenson Woods finds Shakespeare for all out in the open at the Anglican Cathedral gardens

Published on August 15th 2008.


Review: A Midsummer Night's Dream

YOU really don’t need a degree in English Literature to enjoy Shakespeare, and Liverpool’s Lodestar Theatre Company proved it once and for all, last night, with a wonderful open air performance in one of the city's hidden treasures.

As the evening grew dark, shadows and bird cries only added to the atmosphere, creating an otherworldly feel. The back lit trees and music also contributed to this sense of the supernatural

The grounds of Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral, St James’ Gardensm provides the stage for A Midsummer Night’s Dream, part of the annual Liverpool Shakespeare Festival, with a cast drawn mainly from LIPA trained actors, including a number of current final year students and recent graduates of LIPA’s acting programme.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is the Bard's most often performed play: four Athenean lovers, a group of amateur actors and the King and Queen of the Fairies inhabit a moonlit forest.

Food, drink and blankets were available for the audience, as well as pre-show entertainment in the form of Handbag of Harmonies, the all-lady choir from Cheshire who recently appeared on BBC1’s Last Choir Standing. The talented ladies' routine finished with the song Love is in the Air, which set the scene for the night’s main attraction.

Using the Huskisson mausoleum as a backdrop, the play started energetically as the audience were quickly introduced to a world of true love, magic and mischievous fairies, including the memorable Puck Robin Goodfellow who was played with glee. The play’s style was simple and expertly delivered by an outstanding cast, with many stand-out performances including Lyn Christine, John Edon, Stephen Fletcher, Louise Grantham, Ian Hayles, Simon Hedger, Richard Kelly, Grace Menary-Winefield, Rachel Rae and Liam Tobin. Bottom the Weaver absolutely captivated the audience with a comedy performance to remember, touches of Max Wall, Ken Dodd and the Hunchback of Notre Dame.

But the real star of the night was the play’s director, Max Rubin. The direction was slick and faultless; at times it was like watching a movie, weaving plots and sub-plots together effortlessly. Even the intermittent sound problems with some of the radio mics couldn’t take anything away.

Maximising the potential of the performance space was also achieved with great vision and subtlety. As the evening grew dark, shadows and bird cries only added to the atmosphere, creating an otherworldly feel. The back lit trees and music also contributed to this sense of the supernatural.

I’m optimistic and excited about the future of Lodestar, as this assured and quality production comes from a theatre company only two years old. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a funny and entertaining story of love, life and summer. This is Shakespeare as it should be performed, with wit and passion. So take along a foldaway chair, pick up a blanket and enjoy a truly special performance.

9/10

A Midsummer Night's Dream, St James's Gardens, Anglican Cathedral, Liverpool 1, until September 7.

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the FlaneurAugust 15th 2008.

The Flaneur went to see the play last Thursday. Great venue, great play, great production - one of the very few where the lovers held their own and weren't eclipsed by the mechanicals (brilliant) and faeryland (not so brilliant). Our only criticisms are to do with odd directorial decisions in the 'faery' scenes. Apart from Puck being irritating (a common enough problem), the Titania & Bottom scenes were weakened by cuts, and, worse, Oberon's final speech of blessing, which really brings the play to a close, was axed. A bizarre decision, which seems to have non-plussed the audience, and the applause was much feebler than the cast deserved. I hope the excellent cast didn't feel disappointed - they deserved a bigger audience, and a more rapturous response. A thoroughly enjoyable evening! Many thanks.

Troy Lessin, CressingtonAugust 15th 2008.

Excellent review. When done well these open air productions provide a level of involvement and memorable experience that is unmatched by the confines and of a traditional theatre production and helps to create a sense of eavesdropping where at any moment the actors may spot you.

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