Wychwood Players: A Midsummer Night’s Dream

On a Friday evening in September an expectant crowd gathered in the grounds of Manor Farm, Upper Milton to watch the first performance in two years by The Wychwood Players. This was to be a doubly new venture by the group, an outdoor performance coupled with their first rendering of a Shakespearian classic.

The location and choice of play could not have been more suited. The set had been subtly arranged to blend in with the back ground of undulating grass mounds, interspersed with trees with twinkling fairy lights in their branches, and burning braziers. As the evening light began to fade the audience was drawn into an enchanted wood outside Athens filled with fairies and elves.

Richard Hartley and Sarah Pratt were very regal as the Duke of Athens and his betrothed Hippolylta. James Dixon, in his first role with the players, was very convincing as Egeus, the disgruntled father of Hermia. The two young couples embroiled, at the outset, with mismatched feelings, Finnen McNiffe, Becca Witts, Katie Witts and William Gofton warmed to their roles as the play progressed.

The Director’s decision to dress them in modern day clothing along with modern terminology interspersed in their dialogue worked for me. In the bickering scenes, it rang very true for the parents in the audience. I must, at this point, offer particular praise for Katie’s performance, who managed to ramp up her frustration in a very convincing and controlled manner.

Returning to the Fairy Kingdom, I found Alfie Arnold’s performance as Puck to be excellent. He was able to convey the element of mischief that the character demanded. Mark Jessey’s Oberon, king of the fairies, exuded the power and control that the character demanded. Fiona Bates provided the perfect foil in her role as Titania.

The actors playing the characters Quince, Bottom, Flute, Snug, Snout and Starveling, did well to lighten the mood, providing some real belly laughs from the audience. In particular John Witts, in his third outing with the Players, was truly excellent in the character of Bottom. His comic timing was top notch and he actually took on all the characteristics involved, even down to the braying of the ass.

A production of this size involves a lot of people behind the scenes doing the various jobs which make for a great performance. Costumes, lighting, sound, prompter all play their parts, mainly unseen, to achieve that end. Under the Directorship of Mandyrae Jessey, they certainly achieved it with this production.

If the Wychwood Players, ably assisted by The Wychwood Saplings,  The Wychwood Bods and Sunrae have not convinced some of the Shakespearian doubters after this excellent performance, there is no hope for the doubters.

Well done all!! 

Richard Smith

A selection of photos from rehearsals, taken by Ray Derkacz

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December 2021 – January 2022