The annual SaTG event staged in the beautiful Tudor courtyard of The George Hotel in Huntington with its wonderful galleried balcony lends itself well as a backdrop for Shakespeare’s plays particularly on a fine summer evening.

2019 is the 60th anniversary year of Shakespeare at The George performing in this wonderful setting and A Midsummer Night’s Dream a fine choice to celebrate the anniversary.

The plot focuses on three parallel stories: the trials and tribulations of two sets of lovers, of their love and its many complications. Set in a magical forest, the world of the Fairy King and Queen and their elves, also in the mix, a group of rough craftsman attempting to stage a production of “Pyramus and Thisbe” for the forthcoming nuptials of the Duke of Athens Theseus.

Director Dean Laccohee’s version set in a timeless, alternate world took us on a fantastical journey where dreams and reality collided. This production was bold, colourful, funny and extremely quirky. Mobile phones, selfies, BMX bikes, Steam Punk, Goth fairies and timeless costume periods. Good use was made of the wide acting area which was enhanced by the lighting design as darkness fell. Costumes reflected the Director’s quirky ideas, marrying modern with fantasy, something which carried through to the music and sound effects. The superb make-up particularly that of the immortals by Red Elizabeth and her team was impressive.

There are several fairly short scenes between Theseus and Hippolyta in the Court at Athens which carry importance despite their brevity. Theseus – Richard Sockett who is well steeped in Shakespearean ethos, brought real gravitas to the proceedings with his lovely Hippolyta (Kim Cotton) by his side.

Theseus is called on by Egeus, here played by Judith Pawson, to rule that her daughter Hermia enter into an arranged marriage with Demetrius rather than her own love Lysander. Keeping things under control in the Athens Court was Stuart Nunn, elegant as Philostrate Master of the Revels.

To escape the arranged marriage, Hermia and Lysander elope into the woods. Demetrius follows them, pursued by the infatuated Helena who nurses an unrequited passion for him.

The four lovers sometimes prove as difficult for us as it is for Puck to distinguish. Hermia needs to be distinguished from the very similarly named Helena. No problem here as we had very strong individual characterisations from Katy Palmer (Hermia) and Georgie Bickerdike (Helena).

The suitors, Lysander (James Barwise) and Demetrius (Jordan White) were excellent playing the hatred of one another’s rivalry for the love for Hermia with a blatant loathing, both well observed without going over the top.

A love quadrangle develops among the young lovers as, bewitched by Oberon’s magic delivered in error to the wrong man by the hand of the mischievous Puck, all manner of romantic mayhem is unleashed. This meant we enjoyed some excellent acting from all four lovers coupled with some lively comic, and at times, fairly physical, moments.

Meanwhile, a group of craftsmen/amateur actors (The Mechanicals) rehearses a badly written play in the woods. Richard Brown played Peter Quince author of the play Pyramus and Thisbe, to be performed before the Duke at his wedding. His frustration was palpable as he attempted to keep patience with an over enthusiastic cast member as he endeavoured to direct the action of the play.

James Rowe was superb as Bottom and he did not miss a trick both in the rehearsal and performance of the play-within-a-play and as Titania’s Ass. This was an exceptionally fine performance. Also within this play within a play, there was exceedingly good team work from Serenity Twin as Flute/ Thisby, Ashton Cull as Snout/Wall, ‘bush, moon and dog’ from Andy Wilkes as Starveling, controlled roars of the lion from Les Roberts as Snug and not to forget the very melodic and amusing contribution from Helen Reece as Museo the additional ‘Mechanical’.

A beautifully ethereal performance from Josephine Hussey as Titania though taking no nonsense in her quarrel with Oberon; controlling her fairies Peaseblossom (Stephanie Dickenson), Mustardseed (Emma Bone), Cobweb (Bethan Williams) and Moth (Kerry Anne MacCuaig) who all created lovely individual personalities. Reuben Milne working his spells and demanding the stage as Oberon certainly dominated, demonstrating well his frustration with the BMX-riding and mischievous Puck of Louise West over the mismanagement of the magic spells. There was super interaction between the two throughout. Excellent performances and good relationships shown by these three principals in the woodland kingdom.

Congratulations to Director Dean Laccohee, his cast and production team. Capacity audiences throughout the two-week run were treated to a magical production which befitted the 60th Anniversary of Shakespeare at The George.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, performed by Shakespeare at The George.

Julie Petrucci, reviewed for Combinations