A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Theatre Review. Epstein Theatre, Liverpool.

Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating * * * *

Cast: James Templeton, Sharon Byatt, John Schumacher, Sophie Coward, Nick Wymer, Simon Willmont, Sam Donovan, Thomas Casson, Chloe Taylor, Daniel Taylor, Timothy Lucas, Neville Cann, Fra Gunn, Faye Griffiths, Emma Sellars, Emily Chesterton, Georgia Pye.

Something in the undergrowth stirs, a sense of magic is in the air and whilst all theatre productions, across every genre, should have this illusion and allusion readily at its disposal, there is always something incredible, a reason that is fanciful, that should be waiting for William Shakespeare’s timeless comedy and romance in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Because of this notion of deft creativity that comes with the play, the implausible must be carried off with whimsical sincerity, the message must be conveyed with absolute truth and it takes a brave company to carry it off without a resonance of absurdity creeping into the proceedings.

Every performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream requires a Puck of great imagination, an actor that will carry the part with devilish gravitas and teasing allure, for every stout favoured Bottom and majestic Oberon, for every dwarf insulted Hermia and rejected, suspicious, uncivilised in love, sarcastic Helena, there must be a Puck to bind them all together and bring a sense of wonder to the most magical of Shakespeare’s plays.

To find such a Puck is arguably the director’s greatest challenge and in James Templeton such a rare find is one of the greatest gifts to theatre audiences this year. To take on the role which requires such limitless stream of thought, of limber occupation and the subtly to hang back from the proceedings when required, that is the objective of the role, it must be inclusive enough to draw the audience in but it is a role that requires the actor to be the focal point of the play without being seen to be so.

Mr. Templeton’s take on the character was one of refined openness, the impulsive imp and shade was presented with simple cunning but devotion to both the scene and to his master Oberon, played with great seduction by John Schumacher, in this Mr. Templeton won over the Epstein Theatre audience without ever straying into the fantastical or the downright improbable.

A generous adaptation of Shakespeare’s comedy, produced and directed with beautiful accuracy by Daniel Taylor, the bizarre nature of the play, its creative joy, not hindered by taking it down in terms of minutes on stage at all, it thankfully loses nothing of its wonder despite it being shorter in length than is usually offered.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is always one to behold and see with fresh eyes as often as possible but the crew and cast behind this particular adaption take it one stage further and give it a cracking sense of wide eyed optimism. Genuinely enthralling and entertaining.

Ian D. Hall