The University’s Little Theatre is a great venue for the works of Shakespeare, it lends itself to the rapidly changing scenes of most of the Bard’s work. Director Megan Dansie kept the scenery basic using fairy lights on the upper level to show the sprites’ realm. Using a judicially cut script and a mixture of experienced and new players this production is a bit of a patchwork.
Playing against each other as Titania/Theseus and Oberon/Hippolyta, both Annie Matsouliadis and especially Bronwyn Palmer handle their roles with experience. Of the young lovers’ Ashraf Abdul Halim, playing Demetrius, is the least experienced but he holds his own, fitting nicely into the quartet. A romantic Lysander is played by Reuben Fernes, whilst Finty McBain and Airlie Windle are Helena and Hermia making a couple of, eventually well-matched couples. All four seem to handle the dialogue with nice chemistry between the girls, but Windle may need to pace her lines a little to make her speech clearer.
Among the mechanicals, Matt Houston is by far the most experienced and gives a very amusing performance as Bottom but has an annoying tendency to upstage his fellows who are newcomers to the stage. Despite their lack of experience Sophie Caon, Emily Dalziel, Charlotte Minney, and Michael Leach give a good account of themselves as Snout, Quince Snug, and Egeus. The fifth mechanical, Flute, is Karma Duffield who shows good stage presence.
Fredrick Pincombe is delightful as Puck, just the right amount of cheeky mischief to carry it off. The other fairies, played by Sophie Livingstone-Pearce, Bugs Moyse, and Michael Leach are well matched despite a gap in experience. Olivia Jane Parker makes a small but important appearance as Philostrate.
All of the costumes were interesting and the steampunk influence gave it an edge. Dansie’s direction as usual used the stage well, but the performances lacked the ensemble feel they needed. There are good and funny parts to this production but overall it is a little disappointing.
Photo: Richard Parkhill