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A Midsummer Night's Dream
Published on Friday, 08 July 2011
3 stars / Fringe Spirit Award

The Marquee, Poole's Cavern Grounds
6-9 Jul, 7:00pm-8:45pm
Reviewed by Alice de Cent

A much-loved fixture of the Buxton Fringe, The Young REC Theatre company don’t disappoint as they take on a challenge of Shakespearian proportions. With energetic and engaging performances skillfully guided by director Martin Beard, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is an enjoyable evening of heartening young talent.

This summer favourite is perfectly at home in the setting of the Marquee, in the grounds of Poole’s Cavern. Beard has created an airy and striking black and white set, employing texture and mirrored surfaces to evoke the woodland scene. Countryside sounds are provided courtesy of the woods outside, leading to some fortuitously timed birdsong as Puck announced that he could “hear the morning lark”.

Upon entering, I was greeted by Titania’s fairy attendants, played by the youngest members of the cast, and employing some lively improvisation as they showed me to my seat. The rest of the cast were no less engaging, each of them displaying an impressive grasp of the language and a hearty attitude to storytelling. Some spirited physical comedy from Annie Osborne as Hermia, and an impressively connected performance from James Chetwood as Puck stood out, but this is an ensemble piece at heart with the entire cast giving it their all.

Another highlight was the Mechanicals’ performance before Theseus, the staging of which brought the first hints of colour into the previously all-white wardrobe. Led by the entertaining Tom Larken as Bottom, this was an animated scene, full of comic moments, which drew enthusiastic laughter from the audience.

Tying the whole piece together is pleasing music by Laura Monaghan, played live by herself and two young flautists. My own favourite moments may have been the two songs – a sweet lullaby from the charming fairy attendants, and the closing song that brought the whole cast together for an affecting finale.

The performances aren’t flawless, but they’re full of youthful energy and warmth, and it’s a joy to see such a young cast working together so well. There is room for improvement still: while the dialogue was mainly well-placed, scene transitions sometimes dragged a little. However, any imperfections were more than made up for by the touching enthusiasm of this young company. There are plenty of professional shows that can offer more adept performances from experienced actors, but I’d be hard pushed to think of a more moving and agreeable evening than the one on offer from the Young REC.

FringeGuru's new Fringe Spirit Award recognises those performances which contribute to our enjoyment of the Fringe, above and beyond the factors reflected by the traditional star-rating system.

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