Thank you to Topher McGrillis for allowing us to use the images in this post.
It is actually on our UK bucket list to go and watch a performance at The Globe Theatre in London, however this is something we sadly haven't managed to tick from the list yet. Luckily for us, The Royal Shakespeare Company are touring the UK with their performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream. In a brand new twist, they are teaming up with local amateur performers (in Newcastle this is the Castle Players and The Peoples' Theatre) and audiences can watch the blend of professional and local amateurs work their magic together on stage.
The performance started with a few rather long monologues and at this point I must admit, I was rather worried I was going to last for the full 2 hours+. I didn't need to worry though as the pace soon picked up and a rather complicated love triangle (well there are 6 people involved so I guess it's a double love triangle) was superbly acted out before us and kept me on the edge of my seat.
The costumes give the performance a slight 1940's vibe and I commented in the interval that Shakespeare really is eternal. It's difficult to believe that A Midummer Night's Dream was first performed in 1605! The storylines seemed just as relevant today as they were back then. How often have we seen women chasing men but the more they try, the more the aren't interested. It honestly blows my mind that this happened back in 1605 and is still completely true in today's society.
For those who don't know the story, I will try my best to explain. It sounds very complicated but it is very easy to follow on stage. This trailer will give you an idea of what to expect:-
Hermia refuses to marry Demetrius (her father's choice) as she is in love with Lysander. Hermia's friend Helena is in love with Demetrius but he loves Hermia. All four of them end up in a forest where fairies and shadows meddle with love potions and magic which provides twists and turns to this love story with a difference.
At the same time, a group of amateur performers are rehearsing a play in the same forest and somehow manage to get caught up in this love story too. Expect to be highly entertained as the story unfolds with twists, turns and unexpected love.
There were a few stand out performances for me - Lucy Ellinson as Puck was superb and played the audience well. The mischievous fairy would slink around the stage, hide in the audience and even 'borrow' the odd drink from those sitting in the front row. She really was a delight to watch and had us all laughing throughout. Even when a big scene was being played out on stage I found my eyes wondering to her to see what she was up to in the background shadows.
The Mechanics were played by The People's Theatre (catch them on 17th, 18th, 21st, 24th and 26th March - all other dates are played by The Castle Players who play on alternative dates) and really brought life and laughter into the play. The Geordie accents, comedy routines and sketches raised lots of laughs and smiles and you couldn't help but fall in love with them all. If anything, I preferred the less polished performance of the amateurs to the professionals. They were all stars but I have to single out Pete McAndrew who played Bottom - he certainly captured our hearts.
You may have spotted some of the all-star cast in TV shows such as Waterloo Road, Doctor Who, Downton Abbey and Eastenders or films such as Harry Potter and the Prisoner of AzKaban, The Da Vinci Code and The Hurt Locker and for me, The Royal Shakespeare Company certainly did sparkle on stage. What I loved about the production is that it is Shakespeare that is accessible to all. The story was very easy to follow, there were local school children and actors and stage which stop the performance from being stuffy, there's live music, magic and lots and lots of laughs. You really don't need to know anything about Shakespeare to enjoy this show. I often worry with Shakespeare that the language will be too difficult to follow but that is definitely not the case here.
A Midsummer Night's Dream continues at Northern Stage until 26th March. It is also worth noting that The Royal Shakespeare Company are running a 1 hour workshop at Northern Stage on Saturday 19th March at 11am. This is recommended for children aged 8+ as a fun and lively introduction to Shakespeare. Sounds good to me!
Finally, I loved watching this little sneaky look at rehearsals at Northern Stage as introduced by Alex Tompkins and would urge to to watch it too - it's really interesting seeing what goes on behind the scenes!