The amount of talent at Nottingham University astounds me from time to time, most recently when I saw Musicality’s production of Goodall and Hart’s The Dreaming, a reworking of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
A quiet village in Somerset replaces ancient Athens. Sprightly, eccentric woodlanders cause havoc rather than fairies. And the character Jack is a combination of Puck and the Indian boy who Oberon and Titania, or in this case, Angel and Sylvia, fight over. Two couples (equivalent of the Lovers in A Midsummer Night’s Dream) and a group of warm-hearted, thick-witted villagers (Shakespeare’s Mechanicals) get caught up in the chaos of the woodlanders’ magical world. Order is eventually restored, but not before the audience has been completely bowled over by set, costume, choreography, the direction and the singing and acting of the cast.
The high standard of the production compensated for a musical that was not as well known as other musicals and arguably had fewer catchy songs. It was therefore a risk putting on The Dreaming, but a masterful adaptation nevertheless.
Comic moments were major highlights of the show. The decision not to have Nick Cheek, (the Bottom counterpart) in an animal’s mask gave the actor Douggie McMeekin the opportunity to make the audience laugh hysterically at his gormless goat’s expression. In fact, all the performing villagers provided excellent comic value, particularly in the show they staged for the couples at the end, ‘The Banner of St. George’, and the ‘Cuckoo Song’ which had Winnie Grubb played by Natasha Berthiaume being swung towards the audience like a cuckoo in a clock. The lovers also contributed classic comedy epitomised by the effete Alexander, played by Simon Holton, thrusting against a tree for Jennifer’s love.
The woodlanders’ ragged costumes, Pagan representation and striking appearances were only outdone by their strong vocal performance as the chorus. Other outstanding vocal performances came from Hannah Dale who acted as both Sylvia and Henrietta, David Cornish playing the enigmatic Jack and managing to be endearing and alienating simultaneously and from Elizabeth Bourne as Jennifer and Tim Watkins as Reverend Plum, both of whom also demonstrated excellent comic timing. James Rowe had a very strong stage presence, bringing a tremendous energy to his performance as the lead woodlander, Angel.
The set, designed by Katie Blumenblatt, which featured a large dream catcher was appropriate and eye-catching and the orchestra were phenomenal.
For the Director Adam Paulden, Musical Director, Jack Saunders and the rest of the cast and crew, the extremely positive reception of their hard work must have been a dream come true.