Friday, 16 August 2013

A Midsummer's Night Dream at Leicester's Jewry Walls

Hope over experience, that’s what planning to do any outdoor event in Britain is, I’d thought looking out at the morning's torrential rain.  Tonight the plan was outdoor Shakespeare complete with picnic beforehand and on this occasion hope actually won as by 4 o’clock, it was all glorious sunshine. 

We arrived at The Jewry War Museum, Leicester, and found ourselves a sunny spot to picnic, keeping it simple with M&S deli items.  Bucks Fizz and Bellinis kept the mood buoyant and soon we were facing the outdoor stage in front of Leicester’s Roman walls.  The Festival Players had been performing my favourite Shakespeare play ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ all over Britain, with Leicester the last but one stop, before appropriately enough Stratford.
The Festival Players, Jewry Wall Museum, Leicester
A Festival Player

The Players enthusiasm and energy was brilliant and it was all quite mad featuring an all male cast, with  the actors playing three different roles each.  At one point the crazy costume changes meant that Hermia who was also a hairy-bellied Puck lost her wig, but this just added to the hilarity.  I’ve usually found the scenes with Bottom the funniest but here Helen (like Frankie Howard in drag) and Hermia with their tussling over love-interest Lysander, stole the show for me.

As twilight wrapped itself around us, watching the play here in Leicester's very unromantic city centre became strangely atmospheric with layers of Leicester all around us - St Nicholas Church with it’s Gothic graves silhouetted  in the setting sun,  behind that ‘Holy Bones’ and the Guru Nanak Sikh Temple and directly behind the stage the old, old walls of Roman public baths.
The Festival Players, Jewry Wall Museum, Leicester
Midsummers Night Dream - magical as darkness fell 

The noise of pneumatic bus doors and screeching brakes kept it real while the odd bit of heckling from a passing drunk and revellers exiting the Arriva bus shouting ‘Behind you’, made it as traditional as Shakespeare’s day.  The cast coped well with a mock cross 'adieu' from Helen to the noisy hecklers.

The good : The sunshine, the picnic and The Festival Players were brilliant.
The not so good: We'd bagged seats near the front but others further back may have found it a bit difficult to hear due to passing traffic.
Go again: I’d definitely go to a performance by The Festival Players again and fancy Macbeth which The Players are performing next year.

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