A Midsummer Nights Dream
By William Shakespeare
CYD-GYNHYRCHIAD MAPPA MUNDI | TORCH THEATRE | THEATR MWLDAN CO-PRODUCTION
UK TOUR 2012
Peter Doran directs an outstanding cast of twelve – young lovers, warring fairies and mischievous Mechanicals – who meet in a moonlit forest in this magical adaptation of Shakespeare’s classic comedy.
Set on the home front during the Second World War, this new production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream tells of a very British way of life, of an old class structure weakened by the destructiveness of war. Yet despite the conflict there is an underlying feeling of adventure – romance is in the air, and people live life for the moment, not knowing what tomorrow may hold. In these times our dreams are more vivid, the desire to love and be loved greater, and the longing for a better world immense.
An endlessly inventive production laced with wicked wit, genuine enchantment, and a symbolic escape from reality.
Peter Doran sy’n cyfarwyddo cast arbennig o ddeuddeg – cariadon ifainc, tylwyth teg rhyfelgar a mecanwaith direidus – sy’n cyfarfod mewn fforest olau lleuad yn yr addasiad hudol hwn o gomedi glasur Shakespeare, sydd wedi ei gosod ar y ffrynt cartref yn ystod yr Ail Ryfel Byd. Cynhyrchiad dyfeisgar tu hwnt gyda ffraethineb drygionus, gwir swyn, a dihangfa symbolaidd oddi wrth realiti.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream gave 5o performances at 12 tour venues, playing to a total audience of 6,111.
Cast / Y Gast
Snug – Lion/First Fairy
Flute / Thisby
“An enchanting adaptation full of magic, mystery and mayhem”
Amanda Griffiths, Theatre In Wales website
“Another tremendously fine addition to Mappa Mundi’s canon of work, and one which will linger in the memories of theatregoers for many years to come.”
Graham Williams on A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Press Reviews / Adolygiadau’r Wasg
An enchanting adaptation full of magic, mystery and mayhem.
The Torch Theatre celebrates 35 years in style this week with one of the biggest and most adventurous productions it has ever seen. The cast is massive, the concept is bold and the use of multi media is incredibly creative.
Mappa Mundi, Torch Theatre and Theatre Mwldan join forces once more (having previously worked on this anniversary production of ‘she stoops to conquer’ in 2009) with acclaimed director Peter Doran to produce an outstanding adaptation which he has chosen to set in 1940’s Britain.
The play speaks of a very British way of life. The threat to class structure and social order is evident throughout and dreams are seen as a way of escapism and exploration. All of the elements of war are there: in the music; the set and the characters who become soldiers; land girls; vicars and air raid wardens. But the play is chiefly about the perils of love. And we soon discover that ‘The course of true love never did run smooth’.
Doran directs with his usual flair and originality. He ensures that every aspect of the Shakespeare classic is magnified, particularly humour. The casting is perfect and the concept of a war time setting works incredibly well, adding a more poignant feel to the characters and events of the play. The multi media aspect is interesting, as it adds a more interactive level to the production. A small screen is used at the start of the play to show a comical silent film, and then again at the end to show Puck delivering his final lines.
Lysander (Jack Brown) and Demetrius (Sam Jones) are both soldiers, fighting for the love of Hermia (Lisa Zahra). Hermia is in love with Lysander but her father disapproves. It is interesting that Lysander has been cast as American, perhaps suggesting the idea of an outsider at a time when Britain was already feeling threatened. This may have been a risky move, particularly for a Shakespeare play, but it actually works well and adds a deeper element to the character.
Joanne Simpkins portrayal of a heartbroken Helena, in constant pursuit of Lysander, is so dramatic it becomes hilarious. As we watch her begging and pleading with him, then rolling on the floor and weeping we can’t help but feel sympathy for her. For everyone knows how it feels to fall in love. But then later, when under the magical spell of Puck’s potion, both men pursue her and she becomes obsessed that they are mocking her. The pleading and crying begins all over again!
In this production the dream world becomes dark and sinister. Puck (Francois Pandolfo) appears quite menacing as he creeps about the stage, spying on his victims and striking while they sleep. Dressed in black and with a cane in hand he appears as a kind of Victorian villain. The audience seemed mesmerised and haunted by Pandolfo’s portrayal of the dream world trickster.
Titania (Lynne Seymour) is enchanting, drawing the audience in as she almost dances across the stage, draped across her fairies, free spirited and powerful in this magical world. Oberon (Richard Nichols) is strong and stern, although weakened by his love for Titania. Driven by his jealousy, and commanding the stage, he executes his plans to make Titania fall in love with an ass. And Puck is his willing accomplice. But of course, this is Shakespeare, and things never quite go to plan. So ultimately, chaos ensues.
The mechanicals: Bottom (Liam Tobin); Snout (Llinos Mae); Flute (James Peake) and Quince (Matthew Bulgo), provide a comic interlude from the dark magic of the dreamland and the threats of war and unrequited love.
Tobin is perfectly cast as the bumbling and outspoken Bottom. A natural comic actor; he commands the stage as he stumbles about, keeping the audience amused with his observations and asides.
The proudest moment for the mechanicals comes at the final act of the play. The story of Pyramus and Thisbe sees the funniest and most bizarre turn of events ever seen on stage. From the revelation of the theatre groups name (S.A.A.D.O.S) to the stumbling over lines, ridiculous props and many slip ups leading to the irritated Quince giving up on any hope of direction. The audience was howling with laughter.
The actors and actresses move seamlessly through the sets and the timing and interaction is perfect. The theatre is heavy with emotion and atmosphere throughout. At the end of the play, a surprise appearance off stage adds to the audience interaction and makes it appear as if we are in a dream ourselves.
The set (designed by Sean Crowley) is kept very simple throughout. This ensures that the focus is on the storytelling and the actors, as well as the use of multi media. Basic furniture of the period sets the scene at the beginning of the play. The dream world is created by a combination of a painted backdrop of the night sky and long clear curtains painted with trees. The lighting works particularly well here also, where there are blues and purples to create a dream like state. Small lights are used throughout by the actors to suggest the presence of fairies.
The music is very varied in this production. World War II songs set the scene for much of the play as the characters move from scene to scene. In the dream world the music is quite surreal, with faint voices echoing in the background to suggest the idea of dreaming. This all adds to the sinister and mysterious effect of the dream world.
This production has everything a Shakespeare play needs: humour, romance, magic and mystery. And such a successful collaboration of talented individuals can only prove that it is a positive step towards a promising future in theatre production.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream performs at the Torch until the 20th October and then it undertakes a mammoth 8 week tour of the UK.
Amanda Griffiths, Theatre In Wales website
Reviewed at Torch Theatre, Milford Haven, October 15 2012
Location, location … and wartime Britain, where Peter Doran and his talented co-operative have chosen to locate this production provides a changing social backdrop, familiar enough to place each character yet without restraint on Shakespeare’s words.
The scene is set with Hermia and US soldier Lysander in love. Sam Jones’s upright Demetrius is also enamoured with her and has forsaken his former love Helena. Her father Egeus (Matthew Bulgo) determined that Demetrius will become his son-in-law, enlists the aid of the powerful Theseus who is not without his own romantic problems.
Jack Brown’s Lysander, the confident US soldier, armed with charm and nylon stockings strides through a crumbling class structure to get his gal. But he is no match for what is ahead – a world of dreams and fairies where a sprinkle of dust upon the eyelids can transform emotions.
The moment we enter the so artfully created, magical woods, Francois Pandolfo’s mischievous Puck, a deviously delightful Will o’ the Wisp character, surrounds the action with his movements and maintains a dreamlike atmosphere through to his touching soliloquy.
The moment of awakening of each spellbound lover is great. I could not believe how Lisa Zahra’s distraught Hermia could ever recover being renounced by her true love Lysander, and Joanna Simpkins has so much hilarious energy as Helena – clinging to her loved one, then fighting off her desperate suitors. And all around are fairies – Cobway, Moth, Mustardseed … I saw them all. King Oberon (Richard Nichols) is sinister and benevolent as he roams in the background and deploys his servant Puck, while his Queen intrigues with First Fairy (Lloyd Grayshon).
I’m certain Shakespeare created the character Bottom for Liam Tobin. Together with his tradesmen compatriots, Snug, Snout and Flute he produces such fine comedy and when he is given the head of donkey, I sensed the audience’s anticipation as glamorous Titania (Lynne Seymour) awakens – to fall in love with him.
The unrestrained performance of ‘Pyramus and Thisbe’ by a hapless conductor Qinince and his ‘home guard’ quartet, to celebrate the forthcoming weddings, is hilarious and raises the comedy to a climax. The performance of Snug should guarantee Lloyd Grayshon a Christmas Pantomime and Llinos Mai and James Peake were excellent in support.
I’ll admit to being less than enthusiastic when I first encountered this play as a fifth form schoolboy, but that version had no spitfires or ‘Flanagan and Allen! This is an elegant, cultural production that will sit comfortably in any theatre.
Ron Waters for Theatre In Wales website
Torch Theatre, Milford Haven, October 8th 2012
There is always something magical about seeing a Shakespeare play come alive in a performance; and the Mappa Mundi/Mwldan/Torch Theatre production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is no exception to this rule.
Set in 1940’s Britain, director Peter Doran has done well to place Shakespeare’s comedy in a war time context. Love rivals Lysander and Demetrius become war heroes, the mischievous Puck is a turn-of-the-century dandy, and Bottom and his team of actors are a war-time operatic society (S.A.A.D.O.S) trying to generate some relief and escapism from the chaos of the home front.
What is definitely apparent throughout Doran’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is the theme of realism versus surrealism. He effectively places the fairy-realm and neutral ground of the dream-like forest against the turmoil of the War and the tight class structure of Theseus and Hippolyta’s palace in St Athens (see what they did there?). And of course, Puck’s influence is very apt as he portrays both a mischievous trickster and a ghostly sprite adding much to the overall eerie realm of the forest.
In the Forest anything can transpire, especially if Puck has anything to do with it! Suddenly the weird and the wonderful happens; a love potion is created making Titania fall in love with an ass and after fighting over the love of Hermia, Lysander and Demetrius turn their affections onto the poor and tortured Helena. Finally though, all is rectified in the ethereal and mystical forest, and true love is recognised for all the lovers in both the real and the surreal world.
The comedic influence of Doran’s production must not be ignored. The aptly named St Athens Amateur Dramatic and Operatic Society (S.A.A.D.O.S) provides a highly amusing relief throughout the play, coming to a head in their own version of The Most Lamentable Comedy and Most Cruel Death of Pyramus and Thisbe. This scene especially, is bound to make the audience howl with laughter!
With a very talented cast, it is evident in this production of A Misdummer Night’s Dream that magic can cause and fix all problems, and most importantly that “The course of true love never did run smooth” (I.II.134).
Jessie Condons for Theatre In Wales website
Reviewed at Torch Theatre, Milford Haven, October 5th 2012
The Bard of Avon meets sitcom stylists Perry and Croft in this beguiling and utterly magical production performed by Mappa Mundi, a company renowned for its irreverent and adventurous approach to the classics.
Director Peter Doran has transplanted Shakespeare’s timeless tale of what ensues when the inhabitants of the fairy kingdom manipulate the lives and loves of mere mortals to the era of the Second World War – 1944, to be precise – which paves the way for a host of WWII references, period detail and the class differences which delineated this most turbulent of times before society changed in the post-war era.
A twelve-strong cast, led by Richard Nichols(Theseus/Oberon)and Lynne Seymour (Hippolyta/Titania), tackle the challenge of breathing life into some of Shakespeare’s most memorable characters and it is clear that they relish the opportunity to render the dialogue and the narrative as accessible and engaging as they possibly can. Lisa Zahra, Joanna Simpkins, Jack Brown and Sam Jones – who portray Hermia, Helen, Lysander(played here as a drawling American GI)and Demetrius – fare brilliantly as the quartet of star-crossed lovers whose respective romances are thrown into disarray after falling under the mischievous spell conceived by Oberon.
It is undoubtedly Puck(alternatively known as Robin Goodfellow), the mercurial sprite who carries out Oberon’s bidding, who steals the show whenever he appears: Francois Pandolfo’s performance as the fleet-footed fairy is masterly, transforming the character into a cross between Russell Brand, Johnny Depp and Chaplin.
The Rude Mechanicals – Matthew Bulgo(Peter Quince), Liam Tobin(Bottom), Lloyd Grayshon (Snug), Llinos Mai(Snout)and James Peake(Flute) – provide the comic interludes as a disparate group of characters who could have stepped straight out of an episode of Dad’s Army: together, they comprise a group of strolling players known here as the St Athen’s Samateur Dramatic and Operatic Society(S.A.A.D.O.S for short), and their antics during the climactic play within a play – Pyramus and Thisbe, staged to celbrate the wedding between Hippolyta and Theseus – is a master class in no-holds-barred comedic timing and energy.
Deisgner Sean Crowley’s beautifully designed set – strengthened still further by the video design created by Lloyd Grayshon – underpins the aura of other-worldliness epitomised by the fairy kingdom and also the more down-to-earth settings inhabited by the mortals, while Peter Knight’s extraordinarily absorbing and at times unsettling soundscape sets the seal on what is a massively successful production on a multitude of levels.
We are even treated to a rousing Flanagan and Allen tribute number at the climax of the play which is in keeping with the period and which is juxtaposed with the horrors of the conflict to come.
Another tremendously fine addition to Mappa Mundi’s canon of work, and one which will linger in the memories of theatregoers for many years to come.
Graham Williams for Theatre In Wales website
Reviewed at Taliesin Arts Centre, Swansea, October 26 2012
Shakespeare Like No Other Company
A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Mappa Mundi/ Torch Theatre/ Theatr Mwldan Cousins Hermia and Helena are a study in contrasts in Peter Doran’s vivid production for this now well-established tripartite production team. Lisa Zahra, in shapeless WW2 agricultural dungarees, is radiant in romance. Joanna Simpkins, in a tight tailored army uniform, is all strained sadness for a love that is unreturned.
This setting has been done before for “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Dawn French once led the Mechanicals as Bottom. But there are some very characteristic Mappamundian touches. The first three minutes are a novel delight that a reviewer may not disclose. Its effervescence is mirrored in the final few minutes where the production moves into an exalted zone of vision and expressive feeling.
The magic woodland breathes whispers of sound, courtesy of composer Peter Knight. The production team includes designer Sean Crowley, lighting by Ceri James, video by Lloyd Grayshon. Other members are Jacob Hughes, Rebecca Long and Bethany Seddon. Beautiful projections include a side elevation of a Somerset-Avon country house- it resembles Brympton D’Evercy- that turns to a night scene of moon and stars. The cumulative design effect from Peter Doran’s team is outstanding.
“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” has also played this season, for a rather shorter run than the Mappa Mundi annual tour, at Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum. The Guardian’s resident theatre critic in Scotland judged that the lovers were lacking in romantic conviction. Here, they too come as impassioned contrasts. Sam Jones’ Demetrius is a very British moustachioed staff officer. Jack Brown’s Lysander is the brash over-here G I, who happily discards his jacket and shares his tin of sweets, a treasure in ration-era-deprived Britain.
Some company regulars appear. Matthew Bulgo is an authoritative Egeus, in wing collar and frock coat, and an entertainingly actorly Quince. Lynne Seymour is a sleekly elegant Hippolyta in shimmering white and a sensuous, balletic Titania, right down to her black ankle bracelet- movement advisor Kylie Smith.
Llinos Mai is a Snout with romance on her mind. James Peake moves from a sad-eyed Flute, in tin helmet and stripey pullover, to a Thisbe of squealing falsetto and tortuous arm gestures. Francois Pandolfo is a Puck like no other, a darting, epicene, teasing presence in Chaplin suit and cane. Liam Tobin’s Bottom is the bustling, bossing extrovert who conveys a surprised innocence in his line on “Hay: good hay, sweet hay hath no fellow.” Richard Nichols is the quiet commanding lord who holds sway in both the real and the enchanted worlds.
“To show our simple skill” says Peter Quince to his audience “That is the true beginning of our end.” The skills on show are far from simple in what is a fine coda to this year of Shakespeare celebration. The tour continues in Wales- Brycheiniog, Hafren, Rhos and Mwldan- and England until 8th December.
Adam Somerset for Theatre In Wales website
Reviewed at Aberystwyth Arts Centre, November 10 2012
3 – 20 TORCH THEATRE Milford Haven
23 & 24 THE BOROUGH THEATRE Abergavenny
25 – 27 TALIESIN Swansea
1 – 3 ROYAL WELSH COLLEGE OF MUSIC & DRAMA Cardiff
6 & 7 ABERYSTWYTH ARTS CENTRE
9 & 10 THEATR BRYCHEINIOG Brecon
16 & 17 THEATR HAFREN Newtown
19 & 20 LAKESIDE Nottingham
26 & 27 BUXTON OPERA HOUSE Buxton
29 – 30 GULBENKIAN Canterbury
1 GULBENKIAN Canterbury
4 & 5 THE STIWT Rhosllannerchrugog
7 & 8 THEATR MWLDAN Cardigan
Creative Team / Y Tim Creadigol
Production Manager/LX design
Company Stage Manager