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A Midsummer Night's Dream
2 July - 6 August
In summer 2011 Iris Theatre presented a promenade production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden. Set in the beautiful and intimate gardens of a historic church, this open-air performance staged the enchantment and magic of Shakespeare’s familiar favourite, with the authentic feel of an outdoor performance.
Performances ran from 2 July until 6 August, most evenings at 7pm, with matinees at 2.30pm most Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays
“Perfect summer night of fun”
by Lesley Pinder on Tues 5th July
You may remember that two summers ago I went along to Iris Theatre’s production of Romeo and Juliet and had a fantastic time. I said then that I’d be keeping my eye out for more work by this talented bunch and I kept to my word. I’ve just been to see their latest production, an open-air performance of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. Again it was in the sumptuous gardens of St Paul’s Church in Covent Garden and again the theatre company made excellent use of all corners of the space.
The audience are led to various parts of the garden as the play progresses, and the setting really gives the story a wonderful dose of believability. The woodland scenes make the most advantage of the outdoor space with the mischievous fairies looking right at home amongst the dirt, bushes and trees.
The production is a hugely energetic one with all the characters running here, there and everywhere. So much so that I was exhausted just watching them! David Hywel Baynes played Puck in the extremely hyperactive manner of Keith Flint (lead singer of The Prodigy), which was definitely a twist on the usual and a joy to watch. When he and Oberon (played by an excellent Peter Manchester) were together they threatened to steal the show. Matthew Mellalieu also kept the crowd entertained with his booming performance of Bottom. There were also some lovely moments of audience participation – not in the usual embarrassing “let’s single someone out and ridicule them” way – that the audience loved and were rather endearing.
I was blessed with the perfect weather on the night I went (and I hope that you will be too when you go along) but this simply topped off what was already a very entertaining evening. There’s nothing like a good laugh on a sunny summer’s evening and this show certainly provides lots of them. Although I’m aware that Iris Theatre put on all sorts of productions, it is clear that promenade performances of Shakespeare are what they do best and I look forward to seeing what they come up with next summer.
“Dan Winder’s finely pitched show.”
By Miriam Gillinson on Mon 11th July
Cowering beneath an awning, Oberon flinches as he watches the fruits of his labour turn rotten. Rather than uniting two lovers, The King of Fairies’ magic dust has created chaos. The resulting spat, as the pink-clad Hermia and Helena slap and slag each other off, is like a particularly exuberant outtake from ‘My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding’.
Iris Theatre’s promenade show, set in the grounds of St Paul’s Church is … broad, brash and with just the right sprinkling of adult cynicism. You’ll relish Dan Winder’s finely pitched show – his fairies look like superheroes on an off day.
Peter Manchester is brilliant as the meddling Oberon, whose lightning streaked make-up and puffball costume are as madcap as his misfiring magic tricks. His sidekick Puck, so often given a sinister twist in contemporary productions, is cartoonish. As David Hywel Baynes sprints and spirals around, it’s as if a Tasmanian devil has muscled its way into ‘Midsummer’.
Helen Coyston’s set makes clever use of a compact but variable courtyard. Coloured sheets create rough-edged frameworks and kitchen utensils, hanging and clanging from the trees, complement the show’s slapdash silliness. There is also pathos to be found, as the disenchanted Bottom mourns the revels’ end. Mellalieu’s Bottom is a hit with the kids but, as the light fades, even enjoyably hammy style turns meaty.
“Every nuance is perfectly delivered.”
By F Barnham on Mon 11th July
This fantastic new production of the Shakespeare classic is staged in the gardens of St Paul’s church, right in the heart of Covent Garden. Nestled among the flowers or holding court in the majesty of the church itself, the audience is not just transported to, but immersed in this fantastical Athenean world. Every nuance is perfectly delivered, each burlesque fight scene superbly choreographed and the live music quite magical. Go see.Barh
The Stage Review
“A light-footed romp.”
By Gerald Berkowitz on Thursday 7 July
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a play that wants to be done outdoors, and this light-footed romp by the young Iris Theatre makes happy and inventive use of its alfresco setting, taking the audience to three separate spaces in the Covent Garden church’s yard before leading them into the church itself for the final act.
The emphasis throughout is on the fun of the piece, with a few small liberties with the text, such as recruiting audience members to play Lion and Wall, easily fitting into the spirit of the evening. Once we get into the forest, the play is driven along by strong performances by Peter Manchester as a forceful but benign Oberon, Matthew Mellalieu as an amiable Bottom, who is deeper and more sensitive than he realises, and especially David Hywel Baynes as a manic Puck, who may have been snorting the forest’s herbal powders a bit too much.
Even the four lovers, somewhat stiff until that point, are loosened up by the slapstick of the quarrel scene, and director Dan Winder is wise enough not to try to top it with Pyramus and Thisbe, opting rather for a quietly sweet and touching humour that carries the play nicely into the elegiac epilogue.