In the second instalment of Lytham’s programme of outside theatre this year, theatre company Illyria performed Shakespeare’s timeless comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream, produced by artistic director Oliver Gray. Having seen this production on countless occasions in traditional theatre spaces it was refreshing to be out in the woods for an evening of mischief and magic.
Opening scenes depicted the Greek families in turmoil – young Hermia and Lysander announce their love to each other but without the blessing of their families as Hermia is set to marry another. The audience was captivated by the couple’s unfortunate circumstances and this was mirrored coincidentally by a calming in the wind in the hall’s grounds. To escape this fate the pair plot to abscond to the woods – little do the lovers know they are about to set into motion a night of mayhem, frolicking and confusion.
Stepping into the forest the Grecians stumble into the lands of the fairy King and Queen and it became clear that all was not well between Oberon and Titania. The audience giggled with glee at the appearance of the magical forest fairies and clever costuming enabled the cast to portray the dainty and hilarious creatures. Emma Vickery gave an energetic performance as Puck – the spritely right hand of Oberon who, following orders from his master, “mistakenly” manages to cast a rather potent love spell on the wrong recipients.
Of course the introduction of the ever-lovable Mechanicals was well received by the audience, and the innocence of the foolhardy gang made for an endearing performance. Infamous Bottom gave his inspiring insights and recommendations of theatre, provoking rolls of eyes and chuckles mixed with sighs from the viewers – we have all met a Bottom at one point or another!
With a small cast of just five members the production by Illyria was flawless. Each actor gave their part such unique identity and it was no struggle to differentiate between characters. Their ability to change costume within a blink of an eye was astounding and throughout the performance it was almost unbelievable to think the cast was so small. The three tales interwoven as one makes Midsummer’s slapstick and impish comedy an elegant piece of theatre and as relevant now as ever.
Illyria returns to Lytham Hall with Ruddigore, 10 July and Danny the Champion of the World, 28 August
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