The Chapterhouse Theatre Company came to Barnham Broom last night, and performed A Midsummer Night's Dream outside on the golf course. Their scenery consisted of a tent big enough to hold the nine actors, a few pillars and a couple of urns on pedestals. The props weren’t much more extensive, apart from when the rude mechanicals brought their props basket onto the stage and produced a ‘wall’, a ‘dog’, and a few other items. Even Bottom’s ass’s head was minimal.
But if the props and scenery were lacking, the energy certainly wasn’t. The quartet of lovers also played the other fairies, and the rude mechanicals. Oberon and Titania played Theseus and Hyppolita as well (a fairly normal course of events, I’d suspect) and even Puck, who never stopped moving, almost, played Theseus’ rather camp servant. Only the guy playing Bottom got away with a single role.
I don’t know any of the players; they were a fairly mixed bunch with some excellent talent and some slightly weaker actors, more especially when it came to speaking the verse. Some of them missed the mark and the beauty of it at times; nevertheless the clarity of the words was excellent, particularly as there were no mikes to amplify the voices. (Curiously enough, there’s no listing of the actors on the website.)
The quartet of lovers gave huge amounts of energy to their roles, but even more to their parts as fairies, where they rolled and pranced and leapt and cartwheeled. These fairies were eccentric to say the least, but not at all lacking in spirit! And the guy who played Puck (he’d gone round selling programmes beforehand and didn’t seem all that lively a chap) was on fire. His relationship with Oberon wasn’t at all ‘gay’ but their intimate contact was very physical – not in any offensive sense, just without any sense of personal space, one might say!
The mechanicals were just a bit too over the top for my liking, especially in the last scene when they perform before the Duke and his wife (who have a bunch of sarcastic lines typical of their class, but which are fairly dull and were probably covered up by the audience’s laughter in original performances). But it was interesting to hear how Shakespeare sends himself up so thoroughly in the lines he gives to the country actors: mixed metaphors galore, and verbs that don’t belong to their nouns (‘I saw with my ears’ type of thing) and lines full of nonsense.