A Midsummer Night's Dream - Theatre ☆☆☆☆☆5
Showing from - Tuesday, April 5, 2016 through till Saturday, April 9, 2016
Grand Theatre - Blackpool
Sandra Mangan | Tuesday, April 5, 2016
It’s a visit that’s been a year in the preparation, but some things are definitely worth the wait.
At a reception held before the show, the Grand’s chief executive Ruth Eastwood promised ‘a special night for the Grand Theatre’ – and how right she was!
RSC are three letters guaranteed to bring a knowing smile to the face of any theatregoer. Ellinson had the audience in the palm of her hand and never let us goYes, they perform the works of the Bard, but they’re never afraid to push the boundaries and try something a little different. Which is why they are touring this feisty and extremely funny production and picking up a new cast of co-performers at each venue.
Between February and July this year, 14 different amateur theatre companies, 84 amateur actors, 58 groups of 10 schoolchildren – in total, 685 people from across the UK – will be sharing the stage with Britain’s most famous theatre company.
In Blackpool, the spotlight fell on six amateur thespians from Poulton Drama, who took on the roles of the Mechanicals and acted their socks off. Anthony Henry was outstanding as Bottom – and Cathy Lloyd (Quince), Huw Rose (Snout), Roger Lloyd-Jones (Starveling), Garry Houghton (Flute) and Ian Rowe (Snug) were first-rate too. No wonder they got the biggest cheer of the night as they took their curtain calls.
And that wasn’t the only local connection here – Titania’s Fairy Train comprised children from Larkholme primary school in Fleetwood, who showed a grasp of stagecraft that went way beyond their years.
Which makes it all sound like some crazy, panto-style, free-for-all but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Make no mistake, this is a slick, modern-dress production well worthy of the RSC brand, which boasted a host of fine performances, both amateur and professional. Standout for me was Lucy Ellinson as a wonderfully mischievous, naughty but nice, childlike, arch, worldly wise Puck. Straight from her first appearance on stage – a cheeky rendition of Chopsticks on the grandest of grand pianos – Ellinson had the audience in the palm of her hand and never let us go. Chu Omambala’s strong, sinuous, seriously sexy Oberon also deserves a mention – sigh!
This is a very physical production, with some finely choreographed set pieces which proved highly entertaining – in particular, the scene in the forest involving Lysander (Jack Holden), Hermia (Mercy Ojelade), Helena (Laura Riseborough) and Demetrius (Chris Nayak) had me gasping.
The set was a sparsely clever concoction with some imaginative touches, including the aforementioned grand piano, which made a comfortable resting place for the slumbering Titania, and an industrial scale staircase on wheels which was a popular viewing-point for Puck and Oberon.
Ultimately, though, the Mechanicals and their hilarious play-within-a-play stole the show. The innocuous line ‘my cherry lips have often kissed your stones’ brought the house down…. Really, you had to be there! The Poulton actors are on home ground for the rest of this week and then have perfomances at Stratford upon Avon to look forward to this summer. If that isn’t a great way to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, I don’t know what is!
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