Review: Arundel Festival Shakespeare

A Midsummer Night's Dream, Arundel Castle
Arundel ShakespeareArundel Shakespeare
Arundel Shakespeare

William Shakespeare might almost be considered a literary environmentalist - given the extent to which he recycled plots.

His comedies revolve almost exclusively around mistaken identity, lovers forced by stern fathers to marry against their wishes, a dollop of magic for good measure, and the inclusion of a foolish character who is more laughed at than with.

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A Midsummer Night's Dream does not disappoint on any of these fronts.

It is a curious mixture of young Athenian lovers battling against unrequited affections and marriage plans over which they have little control; it is of local tradesmen rehearsing a dramatic play to delight or otherwise the duke and his new wife; and finally but most notably it is set in an enchanted wood where fairies weave their own magic to ultimately bring about a happy ending.

So much for plot. It's almost inconsequential. Shakespeare stands or falls by the quality of the acting and direction.

The GB Theatre Company once more made a welcome return to the Collector Earl's Garden at Arundel Castle to prove their mastery of both.

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They squeeze every last drop of visual humour from the classic and they extract every last laugh from Bottom's attempt to play every role in the labourers' drama.

True to the Bard in every detail, the small cast each play a multitude of characters - changing at speed from one Elizabethan costume to the next and then back again.

Greg Shrewing gives a magnificent portrayal of Bottom. He gets the tempo absolutely right. He almost casually parades an immense talent.

But the scene stealers in the second half are two of leading ladies Charlotte James and Mollie Fyfe Taylor who transform a fight scene between them into something far more earthy and contemporary. They noticeably shift the whole production up a gear in that one moment.

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Alec White is nimble, mischievous puck. But all the cast deserve applause - Jackson Pentland, Tina Harris, Matthew Gordon, director Jonathan Collings and of course Barrie Palmer the artistic director of the company.

This is the perfect setting for Shakespeare and none deliver it better at Arundel than GB.

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