Open air theatre excels – A Midsummer Night’s Dream

A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre

I’ve been looking forward to this as a site specific show and also as an idea for a couple of weeks now. Here we have a 300 plus seater venue in the middle of Chester that brings theatre to the city.  There is a friendly helpful staff in colourful striped aprons, picnics and fizz, fairy light and the playground feel of bark beneath your feet as you pass the stage.  In the audience there’s laughter and a sense of abandonment of which Shakepseare himself must surely approve.

Not the usual view?
Not the usual view?

Our only anxiety is an umbrella of grey cloud above and a few splashes of rain as the production starts; even this quickly passes, giving way to the opening wedding scene, directed with a lovely sense of gravity and expertly set against a background of unaccompanied singing.  The fairy Puck watches from the balcony.

The fairy retinue is nicely observed and beautifully comic with more than a touch of the Victorian grotesque.  Their dark humour revolves around their perception of how absurd the mortal world is.

Shakespeare’s love triangle of two couples, anchored in his commentary on marriage is drawn with a double comic blow in the form of the fairy Puck who here is not one, but two.  She is double mischief and twice as fast and very lovely.  The two worlds, fairy and real, the double sets of lovers, the duality in the roles of the fairy king and queen and Lord Oberon and his lady Titania; all these things are beautifully acted and directed.  A final twist of humour as the wedding party sits to watch a play within a play feasting and drinking from picnic hampers; in very much the same manner as their own audience.  This story of Pyramus and Thisbe and all its capacity for fun is played to the hilt.

The whole thing works really well in the round, holds your attention.  The musical elements are cleverly executed and all movement reminds you how physical theatre holds you, acts beyond the sole reach of words.

There is still plenty of chance to get out and enjoy this show.  The open air theatre also has Othello and Cyrano de Bergerac and runs till 25th August this year.  Tickets and further details are available through the website http://www.grosvenorparkopenairtheatre.co.uk/

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