Heaton Park Midsummer Night’s Dream

Feelgood Theatre performed regularly at Heaton Park from 1998 to 2008.  After last year’s successful Whispers of Heaton the company  return with a promenade performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream that weaves its way from the hall entrance into the ornamental gardens and back inside the beautiful rooms of the hall.  Drawing on the musical traditions of the Egerton family, the story is relocated to north Manchester.  Mostly the music fits the relaxed evening mood, but even Oasis, who performed in the park, get a nod with a rendition of Masterplan.

To my mind, Shakespeare was always meant to be performed in a more natural environment so that each of the actors would have to work hard to keep the audience’s attention.  In Heaton park it’s the joggers, dog walkers and gentle evening wind that form the challenges, along with using unusual and interesting locations across the ornamental gardens.  Many people bring picnic chairs and blankets that they carry from scene to scene.  Outside the walled garden, as Oberon and Puck hatch their plans, a flute plays and the delicate scent of summer blooms hangs in the air.  There is a wonderful atmosphere to the whole production.

Caroline Clegg’s production is impressive, moving between the large and the small scale of the gardens to great effect to create the world of the play.  Scenes are acted out with precision and clarity in front of us, but actors may enter and exit from twenty, thirty or forty metres away, sauntering or sprinting.  In the final scene of the first half, Titania’s Bower where lovers meet, Hermia and Lysander create an intimate scene by a large tree, whilst the fairies and mechanicals in turn emerge from the undergrowth and down the hill.  Like all the best site specific theatre the location becomes a character in its own right.

This is the perfect play for the setting, or perhaps the company have found the perfect setting for the play.  The script is clear and just right for the outdoor space; it’s easy to follow the story and the characters’ journeys.  There is an underlying humour that means you find you’re smiling a lot of the time, but it’s never overplayed.  And this is an impressive cast with strong, sensitive and captivating performances.  As you walk away from the park, in the darkening evening, it feels like there’s still magic in the air.

Theatre lover, amateur director, occasional actor, writer.

2 Responses to “Heaton Park Midsummer Night’s Dream”

  1. caroline clegg says:

    Hi Dave, thank you for your lovely comments and for joining us last night. All best wishes

  2. Anne Strachan says:

    Great review of an inspired and joyous production. The very best of a summer tradition – theatre in the park. All credit to everyone involved. I loved it and am still smiling.

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