Sunday, 13 June 2021

Dream play that’s also a nightmare

OF all Shakespeare plays A Midsummer Night’s Dream holds a special place in the affections of theatregoers.

The characters seem familiar and their names are etched into our memories — Puck, Bottom, Oberon, Titania, Demetrius, Lysander.... all evoke the magical woodland world where the play is set. The story is a fantastical mix of drama and humour and for most people it is their first introduction to Shakespeare.

But a new production coming to the Kenton Theatre next month is very different. It sees the play as having two distinct interpretations — even with the same script and the same actors in the same roles. And on successive nights Henley theatregoers have the chance to see the two versions — first the “dream” and then the “nightmare”. The highly-praised production is being staged by the successful London fringe company, the Immersion Theatre.

This is not the first time they have staged an innovative and gutsy interpretation of Shakespeare. Past successes include The Taming Of The Shrew, Measure For Measure and an award-nominated Julius Caesar — but to take on A Midsummer Night’s Dream is challenging for both the actors and the audience.

The light version is set in pre-First World War Britain at a time when the bloody events of 1914 to 1918 are inconceivable, while the nightmare is set in the middle of what was called “the war to end all wars”. The exciting theatrical project means a return to the Kenton for two very familiar acting faces, James Clifford and Rochelle Parry, who, for the past two Christmases, have been the stars of the theatre’s pantos, Cinderella and Aladdin.

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