A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Production Date: September 17-18th 2021
Directed by: Mandyrae Jessey
On a Friday evening in September, an expectant crowd gathered on the grounds of Manor Farm, Upper Milton to watch the first performance in two years by The Wychwood Players, due to the Covid crisis.
This was to be a doubly new venture by the group. An outdoor performance coupled with their first rendering of a Shakespearian classic.
The location and choice of play could not have been more suited. The set had been subtly arranged to blend in with the background of undulating grass mounds, interspersed with trees with twinkling fairy lights in their branches, and burning braziers. As the evening light began to fade the audience was drawn into an enchanted wood outside Athens filled with fairies and elves.
First to appear were the elves and fairies flitting in and out to the very edge of the audience drawing us further in.
Richard Hartley and Sarah Pratt were very regal as the Duke of Athens and his betrothed Hippolylta.
James Dixon, in his first role with the players, was very convincing as Egeus the disgruntled father of Hermia, over her choice of a potential husband.
The two young couples embroiled, at the outset, with mismatched feelings, Finnen McNiffe Becca Witts, Katie Witts and William Gofton warmed to their roles as the play progressed. The Director’s decision to dress them in modern day clothing and with some of their dialogue interspersed with modern terminology worked for me. In the scenes when they were bickering it rang very true for the parents in the audience. I must at this point offer particular praise for Katie’s performance. She managed, in my mind, to ramp up her frustration in a very convincing and controlled manner.
Returning to the Fairy Kingdon I found Alfie Arnold’s performance as Puck to be excellent. He was able to convey the element of mischief that the character demanded. Mark Jessey’s Oberon, king of the fairies exuded the power and control that the character demanded. Fiona Bates provided the perfect foil in her role as Titania.
In most, if not all, Shakespearian plays we have characters placed there, even in some of his tragedies’, to lighten the mood. In Midsummer Night’s Dream Quince, Bottom, Flute, Snug, Snout and Starveling, fill that role. In this production, to a man, they achieved that role. Excellent casting provided some real belly laughs from the audience. Obviously, I have to pay particular reference to the character of Bottom played by John Witts. This is John’s third outing with the Players and, without any doubt, it was truly excellent. His comic timing was top notch and he actually took on all the characteristics involved. Even down to the braying of the ass.
A production of this size involves a lot of people behind the scenes doing the various jobs which make for a great performance. Costumes, lighting, sound, prompter all play their parts, mainly unseen, to achieve that end. Under the Directorship of Mandyrae Jessey they certainly achieved it with this production.
Shakespeare, like Marmite, is something that you either love or hate. Those long English literature lessons in our childhood when we had to learn and recite long passages from his plays have a lot to answer for. He never wrote them with that intention. He wrote them to be performed not only in theatres but in the open air like this production.
If the Wychwood Players, ably assisted by The Wychwood Saplings and Wychwood Bods and the SUNRAE dance school have not convinced some of the Shakespearian doubters after this excellent performance there is no hope for the doubters.
Well done all!!
It really was a great evening and as we were leaving one of my friends who has been to a number of your performances said that he felt that it was the best yet.
Comments from the audience
"We came to see the play last night from Kent because our 12 year old son is studying it at school. We knew nothing about the troupe and didn’t know what to expect. It was absolutely fabulous. The acting was brilliant, the set and costumes were magical and the venue perfect. The organisers had thought of everything and the home farm sausages were delicious! It really was a special find. Thank you for making us feel so welcome. Can’t wait until next summer’s open-air offering!" 😀
"Absolutely loved it!!"
"Absolutely loved it!! Well done everyone!!" ❤️❤️❤️
"A magical performance"
"It was a magical performance and evening!"
"Absolutely fabulous performance, especially Evie and Alfie of course. The set was magical."
"A wonderful show"
👏👏👏 "A wonderful show. Amazing talent" 🤩🤩🤩
"A great evening! Loved the adaptation, which made it more accessible for the children. Magical setting and very professional performances. Thank you all for your hard work and a very memorable late summer’s night." Xx
"Incredible performance and a gorgeous setting" xxx
"It was absolutely brilliant!!"
"Congratulations to you on another great production! And Mark was excellent too - nice abs as well as acting! Hope the Players can do some more summer productions outside, especially there! Thanks to all involved for a super evening"
"Well done to everyone last night. Excellent show. Best wishes for today."
"Brilliant in every way"
"Congratulations, that was brilliant in every way. The cast, the set, the location, it was all fabulous. Well done Mrs Director. What a lovely way to spend your wedding anniversary. Congratulations 👏 x"
"It was utterly enchanting - thank you so much for encouraging us to come. We loved every minute of it, and thought each and every cast member played their parts brilliantly. Huge congratulations to all the backstage team too. What a stunning, perfect setting. Wow. Just WOW!!"
"...and the moonlight shone just as The Mechanicals were doing their play ...perfect timing for a perfect play. Thank you for a great night. Congratulations to all the brilliant performers. This was a really special show-don’t miss it."
"Needs to be shouted from the rooftops 100x!! It was epic."
"A wonderful event"
"A wonderful event. Well done all."
"This production was absolutely fantastic! We enjoyed it so much. Thank you cast and crew of the Wychwood Players for all your hard work. It really paid off beautifully."
"A stormin production"
"What a stormin production."
"An amazing weekend"
"What an amazing weekend!!! Well done everyone!!! That was a pretty epic after party too!!!!!"
"I have seen this play many times both professional and amateur but never before with a mix of adults and children, they all blended beautifully and made the story flow, well done."
"I have to say I loved the Mendelssohn music at the start and used throughout the show I also loved the director's way of mixing the old and new with the lovers being in modern outfits I thought this was really different."
"A never forgotten performance... truly amazing as good as any professional cast and crew!"