A Midsummer Night’s Dream @ Tobacco Factory, Bristol

cast list
Jay Villiers, Amy Rockson, Christopher Staines, Alan Coveney, Ffion Jolly, Jack Hardwick, Benjamin Askew, Rebecca Pownall, Jonathan Nibbs, Chris Donnelly, David Plimmer, Byron Mondahl, Felix Hayes, Nadia Williams, Kay Zimmerman

directed by
Andrew Hilton
Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory is celebrating entering their second decade by revisiting A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a play which they last staged in their opening season, when, as admitted in the programme notes by Artistic Director Andrew Hilton they were playing to only 12 people on some nights.

That’s no longer the case, nor will it be again if they continue to deliver productions as entertaining as this one.

Shakespeares classical comedy has its roots in both Greek myth and British and European folklore. A quartet of young Atenians flee into the forest where they fall under the spell(s) of the fairies who live within the woods.
This is a very grounded production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream – its success is in its simplicity, both in design and delivery. Resident designer Harriet de Winter has used the space inventively. A sole chandelier in the centre of the auditorium is used to convey the atmosphere of Theseus’s palace and the costumes have a timeless elegance; the fairies are adorned in a simple black and white colour scheme – complete with sunglasses.

The ensemble cast work well together. The young lovers in particular have a good rapport; Benjamin Askew, as Demetrius, and Jack Hardwick, making his professional debut as Lysander, display the requisite gallant quality and their battle for Hermia is perfectly balanced with their later desire for Helena. Hermia and Helena are captivatingly played by Ffion Jolly and Rebecca Pownall, conveying the delight and pain of young love with equal strength.

The true stars of the evening however are the Mechanicals, led by Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory regular Jonathon Nibbs as Peter Quince. Their every appearance causes mayhem and hilarity, and this is especially true of their final appearance when they get to perform their play. A special mention must go to Felix Hayes, whose character Tom Snout portrays the Wall which seperates Pyramus and Thisbe. His performance of this small but vital role was absolutely first class, his timing flawless – a truely exceptional comic performance.

This is another wonderful production from a company at the top of their game, a production full of well-judged performances, and one with a warmth and energy that leaves the audience feeling positively golden.

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