Set play

22nd June 2001 at 01:00
A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM. Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park

Wrap yourself in a rug, clutch a cup of mulled wine - summer is here. The Dream in the Park is one of the pleasures of the season, even if it involves shivering and administering a double dose of hayfever pills. And Alan Strachan's Victorian-dress production is definitely worth the effort - funny, magical and charming.

Gary Wilmot has joined the cast as a bullish, eager Bottom with a soft centre: when his enthusiasm becomes tedious to his colleagues he is visibly hurt. The play-within-the-play is almost stolen from him by John Conroy's camp, disdainful Starveling as the Man in the Moon, however.

The lovers are young and earnest, with Helena (Candida Benson) and Hermia (Rebecca Callard) properly distinguished as willowy blonde and petite brunette respectively. They gradally lose their crinolines as the forest replaces repression with liberty and their confusion neatly echoes the madness of love, an unreal, dream-like state.

Paul Kemp's Puck is an earthy satyr, a Pan figure with the heavy tread of one who might have been one of the "mechanicals".

Earth and air are contrasted throughout the play; in this production Puck, although a sprite, is ironic when he stomps off promising to put a girdle round the earth in 40 minutes.

Oberon and Titania often double as Theseus and Hippolyta. Here Martin Turner's Duke is at odds with Rebecca Johnson's Amazon, as a pretty Indian boy stands among their servants prefiguring the fairy quarrel over possession of just such a child. They make an elegant, romantic pair in both roles.

And, as always, the setting is a star in its own right.

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