REVIEW: Magic and mischief in Bard’s farcical romantic adventure

Picture by Andy Paul
Picture by Andy Paul

A Mid Summer’s Night Dream by Sussex Actors Studio

Sussex Actors Studio thrilled sell-out audiences with yet another stunning Shakespearean production at Ham Cottage Amphitheatre on the outskirts of Ardingly.

After last year’s Romeo & Juliet, it was the turn of A Mid Summer Night’s Dream to venture forth from the wood boughs of this most natural of theatrical settings.

Sussex Actors Studio is ‘for emerging professionals’ looking to develop their skills and experiences, and its creators, Robin Belfield and Jonathan Goodwin, are the safest hands for young thespians to put their trust in.

The Mid Sussex-based collaborators produced a breath-taking pace for Shakespeare’s farcical romantic romp that employs fairies, magic and mischief to entwine the unfortunate sets of lovers in duplicitous, although ultimately harmless, entanglements.

They reduced Shakespeare’s lengthy play to just one hour and 15 minutes, the perfect length for five consecutive performances over three days, and for audiences wanting to enjoy the beautiful High Weald surrounds, as well as the Bard’s best prose.

And so it was that Hermia, Lysander, Demetrius and Helena athletically sprinted and tumbled up and down the amphitheatre’s natural slopes, terraces and rock faces.

Kayley Rainton, James Parrett Jung, Nick Henman and Elsa Anderson’s twists and turns were spot on for the ridiculousness of their predicaments, while Puck (Mandi Hollingsworth) was an enthusiastic assistant for the folly of Oberon and his other target, Titania, played respectively by already established professionals Alex Packer and Kirsty Yates.

Bottom inspired another memorable performance from Benjamin Baeza, as did Flute who was brought hilariously to life by Joe Beesley, and Quince who capably held everything together courtesy of an amusing Michael Thomas.

Snout (Rebecca Lindgren) and Snug (Olivia Catchpole) complemented the ‘actors’ in their play within a play.

Finally, the child fairy was played by Mr Belfield’s daughter, Cora, who at no more than four or five, was capable and enchanting.

In this play, Sussex Actors Studio achieved what other try but often fail to do: to bring Shakespeare to life for the very youngest in its audiences.

It can be proud of such attainment while this critic, for one, will ensure not to miss its next venture in the glades at Highbrook.

SAS was supported by Central Sussex College, the Orchards shopping centre, SWALK in Lindfield and Peter and Andrea Browne for the use of their grounds.