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A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Blenheim Palace

A Midsummer Night's Dream at Blenheim Palace
A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Blenheim Palace

The partly open-air custom-built Rose Theatre adds more atmosphere and depth to this production of A Midsummers Night’s Dream where a large part of the original play was set in woodlands with the fairies and King and Queen.

The story begins with Demetrius (Mark Peachey) hopelessly in love with Hermia (Francesca Zoutewelle). However, Hermia and Lysander are in love against Hermia’s father’s wishes. Meanwhile, Helena, (Elexi Walker) is deeply in love with Demetrius. As we know only too well the path to true love never run smooth and that certainly is the case here.

Nana Amoo-Gottfried in the role of Lysander really stood out for me. He delivers some very funny lines and performs with confidence. His complete change in character after the woodland fairies cast a spell on him was believable. One of the best performances of Lysander I have seen in a production of this play.

Oberon, King of The Fairies was played by actress Claire Cordier who led the role with strength and conviction. Tom Kanji performed an overtly “camp” Queen Titania, and it worked brilliantly.

Costume and Scenic Designer Sara Perks has created an extremely detailed collection of outfits. The ones designed for the forest fairies appeared to have been influenced by the silver birch tree and caught the light at different angles. Many of the actors’ costumes were dominated by silver bark patterns along with some incredibly detailed headdresses.

No review of this play would be complete without mentioning the comedic character, Nick Bottom. Paul Hawkyard certainly brought this role to life at many points throughout the evening. Especially when he donned the donkey head and brayed.

It was such a pleasure to watch a cast of talented and versatile actors who only two nights ago were performing the powerful and totally different Macbeth. Theatre never ceases to amaze and entertain me.

A Midsummer Night's Dream at Blenheim Palace
A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Blenheim Palace

Every essence of magical and mysterious wonderment of this Shakespearean comedy can be found in this latest adaptation. With the addition of modern language, this version is very easy to follow.

The groundling’s section of the audience became immersed in this performance and one little girl walked up and down the front of the stage through most of the play and appeared to be in awe of the characters.

During a large section of the performance, the audience is treated to a lot of acrobatics and the ceiling’s trapdoor is used throughout with several cast members exiting and entering through it. There is also an intricately detailed rope pattern attached at various points to the stage allowing the fairies to move freely across and become more visual, which they did with outstanding performances.

Choreographer Phillippa Cafadari has created a visual treat, especially with the woodland fairy scenes. Each one of the characters appeared to be a skilled acrobat and you never quite knew where in the theatre they would appear next.

Director Juliet Forster has breathed new life into this Shakespearean classic comedy. With the various love trysts running throughout the play it could easily become confusing. However, Forster has kept the storyline straightforward and uncomplicated which allows the audience to admire the great performances and costumes.

4 stars

Review by Elaine Chapman

In Athens, Hermia is in love with Lysander, but betrothed to Demetrius – who Helena is in love with. One night all four set out into the woods, where the fairy king and queen, Oberon and Titania, are arguing. When Oberon decides to resolve matters by using the juice of a magic flower, much confusion and comedy ensues.
The course of true love never did run smooth.

Making up the 19-strong Macbeth/A Midsummer Night’s Dream company at Blenheim Palace are Nana Amoo-
Gottfried (Ross & Lysander), Alex Avery (Macbeth & Snug), Ellie Burrow (Lady Macduff/Young Siward & Fairy Queen/Peaseblossom), Charlie Cameron (Witch 3/Murderer 2/Scottish Doctor & Puck), Christopher Chilton (Witch 1/Murderer 1/Messenger & Snout/Fairy), Suzy Cooper (Lady Macbeth & Peter Quince), Claire Cordier (Hecate/Gentlewoman/Messenger/Seyton & Hippolyta/Oberon), Maria Gray (Donalbain/Witch 2/Murderer 3 & First Fairy/Cobweb), Paul Hawkyard (Macduff & Bottom), Adam Kane (Malcolm & Fairy), Tom Kanji (Old Man/Siward/Apparition 3 & Theseus/Titania), Mark Peachey (Banquo & Demetrius), Shane Quigley Murphy (Lennox & Starveling/Fairy/Moth), Adam Slynn (Captain/Apparition 2/Servant & Philostrate/Mustardseed/Fairy King), Paul Stonehouse (Duncan/Porter/English Doctor & Egeus/Fairy), Toby Vaughan (Swing/Cover & Flute/Fairy), Elexi Walker (Angus/Lord/Messenger & Helena), Jenny Wall (Apparition 3 & Fairy), and Francesca Zoutwelle (Apparition 1/Menteith & Hermia).

Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre
8th July – 7th September
Europe’s first-ever pop up Shakespearean theatre is at Blenheim Palace.
https://www.blenheimpalace.com/tickets-booking/

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