Thu, 28 Apr 2016 19:30 at Regent Centre, Christchurch
Fri, 29 Apr 2016 19:30 at The Mowlem Theatre, Swanage
Paul Nelson - Read Through and auditions 15/11/2015
Read through will be Monday 16 November and audition on Monday 23 November. Both events will be at Pokesdown Primary School starting 7.30pm. You don't have to prepare anything, just come along prepared to have some fun and to join in with one of Dorset's leading companies.
John Newth - Scene One
This is one of Shakespeare’s most under-estimated plays: it is light and frothy, indeed very funny in places, but it is also thought-provoking about the nature of love, attraction, identity and class. The first thing that must be said about this production is that it is both enjoyable and interesting, with some acting of the highest quality on display. The second thing to be said is that it can be really quite irritating. Arena Theatre have a deserved reputation for productions which are innovative, imaginative and interesting – and which are, for the most part, successful as a result. It is a risky strategy, though: innovations can only be justified if they add vigour to the action, increase insight into a play’s themes or heighten the emotional response to it by making a comedy more comic or a tragedy more tragic. If they don’t achieve at least one of these things, they become simply gimmicks or, worse, distractions. The theatrical devices used in this production regrettably veer towards the gimmicky. Take, for example, the fact that at many points, exiting actors do not disappear but retreat to chairs along the side of the stage: in full view and, apparently, continuing to watch the action. There is also frequent use of the auditorium for entrances and exits, which may be effective in breaking down ‘the fourth wall’ and making the audience feel involved, but equally can be distracting if excessive, as it is here. Then there is the video screen, which is used hilariously in Quince’s prologue to the rude mechanicals’ play, but for the rest of the play is a waste of space. The programme tells us that the production is set in modern-day Greece, but a quick picture of refugees arriving on Lesbos and, later, a burst of the Zorba the Greek theme don’t really do the business. Oberon and Titania become a spiv and a chav respectively, a Greek Boycie and Marlene from The Green, Green Grass; the least forgiveable result is that the poetry of some of the best lines in the play is lost. And although the Muppet-type puppets carried by the four fairies are very competently and amusingly handled, and the fairies sing beautifully, the actors playing the parts are accomplished enough not to need such gimmicks.
I mentioned high-quality acting and there is plenty of it. I would guess that Bottom is the favourite part of many actors who have played it, and Chris Tucker exploits its full bombastic, self-important potential in a fine comic performance. Roseanna Bowen is a sympathetic Helena, playing her as something of a Valley Girl, but having to show a wide range of emotions and reactions, which she does extremely well. Jake Ruddle is apparently making his first stage appearance, but to judge by his understated, effective performance as Lysander, his second will be worth seeing. Beverley Beck attracts our sympathy as Peta (not Peter) Quince as she tries to organise the unruly cast of ‘Pyramus and Thisbe’, but she must be successful as it is one of the funniest versions I have seen. I was not sure at first about Jack Edwards’s interpretation of Puck, somewhere between a street kid and Buttons, but it grew on me. Both as Egeus and as Flute, Leo Smith shows a rapport with Shakespeare’s words and the ability to deliver them effectively. The play has been quite severely cut – to less than two hours if you discount the interval. Happily, Puck’s final speech, which is often a casualty, is retained and the play ends with a lovely touch.