Taking Flight Theatre Company’s 2013 touring production of Shakespeare’s classic comedy was staged at Cardiff’s Norwegian Church, as part of the Unity Festival. The aim of the company is to make inclusive theatre aimed at a wide cross-section of audiences. Tom Wentworth wasn’t disappointed.
The production, as described in the programme by its director Elise Davison, is ‘a little bit zany, a little bit unusual.’ This is certainly true, as the piece makes effective use of song (accompanied by the actors themselves playing a whole range of instruments), audience participation and even space hoppers. It is a colourful and inventive imagining of ‘the Dream’, using much of the original language of the play alongside colourful costumes, props and the highly effective use of puppets, all of which helps to make the piece accessible for audiences, with whom the actors are also encouraged to interact – and they do frequently. Jimmy Whiteaker, proves himself to be particularly skilled at engaging the audience in some very funny and spontaneous comic banter.
Staged as a promenade performance and performed in the open air and the cast brave whatever the weather is thrown at them. The nature of the piece requires the ensemble cast to move the audience to a new location for each change of scene. This runs the risk of breaking the magical spell of the narrative and action but the strong ensemble cast, for the most part, effectively manage to pull off this difficult task, as well effecting some well performed doubling between the three strands of the story – the lovers, the fairies and the Rude Mechanicals. The latter are all highly effective characterisations with the final scene – the performance of Pyramus and Thisbe – being a particular high point of the show.
In addition, perhaps one of the other most successful elements of the production is the way Shakespeare’s writing is being brought to a new generation. At the performance I attended, at Cardiff’s Norwegian Church, staged as part of the Unity Festival, the audience was packed full of school children who wholeheartedly allowed themselves to be taken under the performer’s spell. Taking Flight regular collaborator Megan Brooks, in particular, seemed popular with the younger audience members as a cheeky but firm Puck (also seamlessly providing BSL for the piece.)
Whilst the production perhaps breezes quite quickly over the more romantic aspects of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, this production really manages to evoke and mischievously play with a sense of magic within the play, as well as a childlike fascination with the outdoors. However, its main quality is definitely fun – I came away uplifted by the performance as a whole and it looked like the performers felt the same.
I thoroughly recommend that you make every effort to catch Taking Flight’s entertaining show on the remainder of its tour, before – like the fairies in the wood – it’s gone and you may begin to wonder if it was all a dream…
Taking Flight Theatre Company tour the West Country, Wales and Scotland with their production of A Midsummer Night's Dream until 18th August.