This production of Shakespeare’s classic and well loved comedy is set in the pretty garden of a church. Though it is on the edge of a very busy road it is a lovely and appropriately nature-filled scene for the play. Upon the entrance of their audience, the cast are already in character and greet us pleasantly. In case of Scottish weather they are well prepared with umbrellas for both their viewers and themselves but thankfully the heavens did not open during the performance I attended.
The actors approach from all angles, giving the audience the impression that they are right in the thick of the story.
The cast of twelve portrays all of the characters between them, meaning that several of the actors have two parts to play. Some are stronger than others, but all roles are filled well and are appropriately distinguished despite the overlapping cast. In particular the mischievous, flute-playing sprite, Puck, is portrayed very cheekily and likeably despite the mayhem he causes, dancing circles around his disasters and the audience. The same actor also convincingly plays the role of Snug, the Joiner – one of the performing workmen – impressively switching from the conniving and cunning Puck to this slightly dim character.
Being set in the grounds of a busy church, it is important that the actors speak loudly and clearly; the characters of Helena, Puck and Bottom in particular succeed in this goal. Bottom is appropriately egotistical and demanding of attention, even once he is made an ass of. The cast also provides the music for the show with wind instruments hidden at the back of the garden, and whilst this is a nice touch, it is so intermittent that it feels a little unnecessary.
There is an impressive, full use of the garden and the church grounds and the actors approach from all angles, giving the audience the impression that they are right in the thick of the story. It’s also particularly effective to have the characters sit with the audience during the Workmen’s play.
This is an intimate, slick production and a very nice portrayal of some of the Bard’s best work.