A Midsummer Night's Dream

Local thespians in Brighton may be familiar with the Academy of Creative Training (ACT), which strives to offer instruction to the ordinary individual who dreams of a life on the stage. The resulting blend of students means the cast of A Midsummer Night’s Dream are from all walks of life and ages and it is this eclectic mix that makes the production stand apart from the usual drama show fare.

Alex Louise gives a stand out performance as Helena and conveys the nuances of light, shade, emotion and comedy convincingly.

Shakespeare’s much loved comedy, set in Athens, is an intoxicating fantasy following four star crossed lovers, a forest full of fairies and a troupe of foolish actors. Hermia though betrothed to Demetrius desires to marry her lover Lysander, while her best friend Helena is in love with Demetrius but the feelings are not reciprocated. They all end up in an enchanted forest where the feuding fairies have fun at their expense with a drop of some magic love potion.

The second year pupils at ACT deliver an extremely entertaining version of events beginning with a full company dance to the strains of Sh Boom-Life Can Be A Dream by the Coasters. This sets the taste of the comedy we are about to receive. Deftly directed by Sian Webber, she manages to correctly cast the ensemble with the talent at her disposal. The simple set of painted sticks and lighting convey the nocturnal forest perfectly, with little expense but sizeable impact.

Alex Louise gives a stand out performance as Helena and conveys the nuances of light, shade, emotion and comedy convincingly. You can almost feel the audience willing her to win the love of the fey and slightly nerdy Demetrius, played by Murray Simon, who looks like a young Mathew Kelly. The youthful Olivia Sewell (Hermia) gives a performance brimming with honesty and humour and all four lovers do a fantastic job despite Maurice Humphries’ occasional slip up with the tongue-twisting language. The added addition of kung fu fighting was a little confusing and seemed to be added as a private joke for ACT alumni in attendance, but still prompted its laughs from the audience.

Radu Fulu delivers both Oberon and Theseus with admirable intensity, coupled with excellent wit and a strong slap although his accent sometimes makes it difficult to understand the language on occasions, while his fairy queen, Titania, played by Parisa Shahvalian, sashays around sexily in a red slip. The supporting cast of characters all get their chance to shine and Marcus Kinsella gives everyone a jolly good look at his extremely funny Bottom (no pun intended). His clever headpiece means we get a hint of ass while still able to see his face. Tom Evans looks the part of the naughty nymph, Puck, with a shaved head and horns, giving a perfectly measured performance even if he does come across as a confused Mr Tumnus on occasion.

The disproportionate halves means that the first act lumbers along at an hour and a half while the second act, at an hour, feels so short it’s sweet. The action is pretty much concluded at the interval leaving just the travelling troupe’s witty rendition of the Pyramus and Thisbe play to enjoy, ending in a full company dance reprise to rhythmic applause.

The students and faculty of ACT can feel rightly proud of this charming production and there’s no reason why the paying public shouldn’t thoroughly enjoy the evening, even if they aren’t party to all the graduates’ gags. 

Reviews by Christine Kempell

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The Blurb

Hermia loves Lysander and Helena loves Demetrius but Demetrius is about to marry Hermia… the Duke tries to force the marriage and so the entangled lovers flee to the forest and fly into the fallout of marital discord between the King and Queen of the Faeries. Frying pan, fire, lust, desire – all conspire to create a melee of mayhem and hilarity.

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