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Enchanting, Humorous Tale Of Magical Goings-On
Shakespeare's classic fairytale offering, A Midsummer Night's Dream, is given a vibrant and colourful feel in the second community musical performed by the Lichfield Garrick theatre. The Dreaming, which runs at the Garrick from Monday 31 July to Saturday 5 August, is a musical version of Shakespeare's timeless tale about Oberon, Titania, Puck and Bottom set within an enchanted wood.
Jack greets the woodland creatures as they awaken. Pamela Raith Photography
The Dreaming was originally commissioned by the National Youth Music Theatre in 2001, with music by Howard Goodall, whose previous credits including classic comedy shows such as Blackadder and The Vicar of Dibley, and lyrics by Charles Hart (The Phantom of the Opera). And youth is very much to the fore in the Lichfield Garrick's production which, like the first community musical, The Hired Man, in 2016, is directed by the Staffordshire theatre's Artistic Director Tim Ford.
The village actors rehearse 'The Ballad of St George'. Pamela Raith Photography
The 70-strong cast is apparently entirely made up of community actors from across Staffordshire and the neighbouring West Midlands, even those filling the lead roles, who have been rehearsing for the last four months ready for the week long run of The Dreaming. A number of crew members have also been drawn from the local community, sharing the experience of making and putting on a professional theatre production in the company of West End and Broadway musical director, Angharad Sanders, and co-director Craig Sanders, who directed Crimes Against Christmas at the Lichfield Garrick last December.
Alexander, David, Charlotte and Jennifer squabble in the wood. Pamela Raith Photography
For the king and queen of the fairies, Oberon and Titania, we now have Angel and Sylvia, who are excellently played by Chris Gilbey-Smith and Olivia Deane respectively, the ill-fated Bottom becomes Nick Cheek, a member of a village troupe of actors, while the mischief making is carried out by young blacksmith's son Jack, who wants to join the band of woodland fairy creatures that awaken in the Fern Wood once a year on midsummer's eve. It is Jack, splendidly played by the equally young Macie Barrington, who is charged by Angel to sprinkle a love potion into the eyes of Sylvia, and others, with devastating repercussions.
Angel and Jack discuss their plans. Pamela Raith Photography
Stumbling into the mix is the group of actors, led by Cheek, who are rehearsing for their play, 'The Ballad of St George', together with runaway love-struck couple Alexander and Charlotte and various other villagers who are scouring the woods for them. It sometimes makes for a confusing picture, but the synopsis provided with the programme is helpfully one of the more detailed I have come across. The troupe of actors, led by Cheek (Alfie Kentesber) and Rev Plum (Ivor Williams), provide much if the comedy, while plaudits of a different kind go to the choreographic team, especially given the large number of woodlanders and other characters who are moving around on stage - complete with coloured balls as flowers - at any one time during the numerous musical numbers.
Olivia Deane is excellent as fairy queen Sylvia. Pamela Raith Photography
The Dreaming continues at the Lichfield Garrick theatre until Saturday 5 August with a variety of evening and matinee performances. Tickets start from £12.50 and can be booked online or by calling the Box Office on 01543 412121.