Bard's magical fantasy goes into the woods
THEATRE-GOERS will venture into the enchanted woods from today until Saturday when A Midsummer Night's Dream casts its spell.
And after a 20-year break from putting on Shakespeare it will be a treat for Torch Theatre too, who tour this show with Mappa Mundi and Theatr Mwldan, heading to Swansea's Taliesin Arts Centre.
Director Peter Doran says pooling their resources means they can put on their big spectacular of the year without stinting on cast, crew and set.
"This is a co-production with Mappa Mundi and Theatre Mwldan so we can put our budgets together to make this a very big production — our first of a Shakespeare play for 20 years.
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"And this is a lavish and a magical one to bring to the stage.
It is the Shakespeare play which, along with Romeo and Juliet, is a real favourite with the public."
Peter has had some fun with the setting of the play, fast forwarding the moonlit action, romance and intricate sub-plots to a forest on the home front during the tense and uncertain times of the Second World War.
And that sense of insecurity and that desire to seize the moment which was part of the atmosphere of wartime feed well into a Midsummer Night's Dream, says Peter.
"It is good to be able to approach the setting creatively because of course the idea of going off into the forest was a very different thing in Shakespeare's time compared to what it would be in modern times.
"Forests then were places where you might meet outlaws and wild beasts. They really were dangerous places to be.
"So setting our production during the war added that sense of danger and fear. We also had the backdrop of spoiled crops, starvation and rationing, which adds another element." So in this production the mechanicals, the group of hammy play-within- a-play actors who put on courtly entertainment for the royal wedding party become hapless Dad's Army-style officers.
Back projections and dazzling light effects all add to the sense of hyper-reality and high fantasy.
"This is Shakespeare at his most magical so you can do almost anything. This is magical environment where almost anything might happen," says Peter.
And a new addition to the fold adds a fresh perspective too he says.
Oberon and Titania are played by two Mappa Mundi stalwarts, Lynne Seymour and Richard Nichols, who audiences in Wales will be familiar with. And we have Francois Pandolfo who brings a new dimension to Puck. Often the character is played in a magical, mischievous way, but Francois's Puck is much darker and more menacing, while still being likeable.
"He gives a very intelligent performance and he is a great mover.
"Also, every year we have wonderful new actors coming out of the Welsh Royal College of Music and Drama and we have to be very quick off the mark in order to snap them up before they go elsewhere.
"We have done that with James Peake, who plays one of the mechanicals in our Midsummer Night's Dream. He is a very young actor but he isn't overawed in the company of more experienced actors, which is lovely.
"He is not cocky, but he isn't afraid to take risks and try out new things, which is exciting.''
The show begins at 7.30pm with an extra performance tomorrow.