5 December 2018
A Midsummer Night’s Dream Review
“I don’t usually go for gimmicks with Shakespeare, but the acting was so good, I didn’t mind” – Fr. Anthony Conlon
On the 24th June, I went to Stratford-upon-Avon with my family to meet up with some friends – it was the half-way point between us and them. I was initially reluctant as it could mean missing England’s second group game in the World Cup. I am not usually a fan of international football, the two worst words in the regular season are ‘international break’ and watching England is usually as much fun as getting teeth pulled, but as soon as a major international tournament comes along every two years, something changes within me, I will watch every game, put money in every sweepstake and contemplate putting flags on the car before I think better of it.
It was a glorious summer’s day (one of the many we had this summer) and Stratford looked sublime in the sun, yet I was determined to find a pub that did food, wasn’t too busy and had the football on. I managed to watch the game, England won 6-1, and it brought back memories of the first tournament I really remember as a child: Euro ’96. I, along with the rest of the country started to believe it was coming home. My patriotic duties complete, I was free to enjoy the rest of the day at Shakespeare’s birthplace. After visiting said house where the bard was born, we took a boat trip on the Avon, went on the Ferris wheel by the river and then listened to a brass band playing an impromptu concert in the bandstand. It was one of the most quintessentially English days I have ever had.
This day was the inspiration for the concept of this production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I could imagine Shakespeare spending his summers as a boy there, possibly inspiring the feelings instilled in this play. A couple of weeks later I went to see the OSBC at Henley Regatta, my first time at this event. Needless to say, I was not necessarily dressed for the occasion, but I loved seeing all those that were – the multitude of blazers, the summery dresses, the hats, chinos and boat shoes. It is days like these that make me really proud to be British and fill me with such hope for the future. It is this, that I wanted to capture in directing this, my most favourite of Shakespeare’s plays.
And so it was that after 75 hours worth of rehearsals, mostly in the evenings (with the final weeks preceding the first night lasting till 10pm), on 21st November our production was ready to be seen by an audience. We were treated a packed house full of Norris, St John, Saint Philip’s House and other guests, and they spurred the cast along through the first night jitters. The feedback from the first night was excellent and the play soon became the talk of the school. I knew that we could do better however and on the Friday night in front of FitzAlan and Faber, the cast did not disappoint, with many of them producing their best performances. By the Saturday, the cast arrived exhausted from open morning and battle worn from the block fixture against Teddies (with some buoyed by the excellent wins by the 1st and 2nd teams). The final night however was the best night of the lot, and to a large audience of friends and family predominantly we ended our run of the senior school production for another year on a high.
I was so thoroughly impressed with the cast this year, it has been a huge challenge for some but I have seen them develop so much over the course of the last two months. I thought the increased number of sixth form students involved helped raise the profile of the production and I enjoyed watching Archie Barribal, Max Nugent and Angus Grecian work together on stage. Harry Hiscox once again lit up the stage with his natural ability where he makes it looks so effortless – but I can tell you he does not do things by half and put in a great amount of effort in rehearsals. Other boys stepped up their involvement from last year and we had the great stage presence of Diggory Hobley as Bottom, William Moran as Snout, Tom Martin as Flute and Mojola Ayanbadejo as Oberon. A number of boys who had taken part in the SPH production of Lord of the Flies took the step up into the senior school production and performed well again – including Henry Watson, Oliver Rae, Nathan Hicks, and Fraser Robertson. For me the greatest accomplishment was of those boys who were taking part in their first production – giving me hope that I can increase numbers even further next year. William Nugent and Sebastian Ferranti Roy were there are pretty much every rehearsal as Lysander and Demetrius respectively and they led the way on stage. We had Ben Daintree-Blackshaw and Elton Mayo-Greenwich as fairies, both of whom have made great strides in their ability in Drama this year. Archie MacIntosh led the Rude Mechanicals well was Peter Quince, but the star of this group was Sean Okoi as Snug, who gave a rip-roaring portrayal of the Lion. I once again have to thank the girls from Langtree for their dedication, passion and commitment in participating for another year in our production. Elena Bromidge was perfectly regal as Hippolyta, Ellen Bentley was divine as Titania and Elsie Roff and Olivia Smith raised the performance levels of the entire cast with their portrayals of Hermia and Helena, with Olivia having to learn the most amount of lines in the entire show.
The whole production couldn’t have taken place without the support of key members of staff, such as Di McLaughlin, Pip Cunningham and their teams, Clare Coombe, Stephen Burrow and Chris Arnold on FOH duties and all others that supported along the process. Charlie and Vicky Watson very kindly lent us their dog Toffee for the final scene and she really stole the show. I also would not have been as relaxed on performance night without the hard work of the backstage crew, led by Daniel Phillips our Performing Arts Captain. Daniel was been a backstage stalwart for a number of years and this year he trained a number of students to take over his mantle. It speaks a lot about his contribution with the number of names I will list here as he has done this all himself in the past, but this year we were blessed with Lucas Sieyes, Oliver Davies-Byron, Oskar Jordan-Barber, Jack Thomson, Charlie Thomas, Tolu Awoniyi, Jake Shuttleworth and Luke Pemberton. We had the fortune to have Theo Holley capturing professional quality photographs of the entire process and the musicians in Sam Morgan, Otto Cutler and Rufus Shanagher added another dimension to the production.
I would like to thank all of the audience for coming to see the play, it means so much after all the hours put in to rehearsing to have had such a supportive audience. We look forward to the next production by Saint Phillip House in the Trinity Term and even bigger and better things next year.
JONATHAN BONNETT – HEAD OF DRAMA