So, today is Midsummer. The very word sounds magical, teeming with enchantment. No wonder it is the stuff of myth and magic. Shakespeare certainly thought so and he was right. Not many miles from the Lincolnshire town where P and I lived for over twelve years before moving over here, is an outdoor theatre where, for three months every summer, come hell or high water*, two or three Shakespeare plays were performed ‘al fresco.’ Every year, a group of us would book seats, take a picnic and laze in the evening sun waiting for the performance to begin.
We had, over the years seen some wonderful performances, but none more so than when we went to see a performance of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ on 24th June 1992** the memory of which is still with me now. The evening was clear and warm, a perfect night for an outdoor performance. There was magic in the air as the play began and we, the audience were swept into it from the very first line. I was taken completely by surprise by the animatronics or special effects used not only for Bottom’s ass’s head but by those used for the fairies’ wings. The costumes of both Oberon and Titania were splendidly dynamic and alive, their wings waved in their anger and vexation and quivered in pleasure; they suddenly became more than mere mortals, having an almost dream like quality in the now dimming evening light. I can say, without a doubt that this was the most stunning performance of this play that I have every seen, and I have seen several.
* Luckily the audience are seated under a canopy (or they were then) but the actors had to perform no matter what the weather was doing. I remember one year, it absolutely poured with rain during the performance. The actresses’ dresses were darkening around the hems as the water soaked in and seeped upwards. At one point the scene was a balcony and the actor involved had to speak lovelorn lines about the beautiful night and the moon and etc and the audience, I’m ashamed to say, just dissolved into laughter, he waited for us to subside and then carried on delivering his lines and had us believe that we too could see that glorious full moon. Well played.
** I know, but I don’t apologise for the fact that I keep all my theatre programmes and usually put the tickets inside, so I know exactly what I saw and when I saw it.