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A Midsummer Night’s Dream: The contorted course of true love

The Garden Players: A Midsummer Night’s Dream is at Stubbings House from Tuesday, June 20 – Saturday, June 24

James Harrison

James Harrison

A Midsummer Night’s Dream: The contorted course of true love

Lunatics, lovers and poets will take over the grounds of a former stately home for an open air performance of one of the Bard’s most famous plays.

The Garden Players are set to return to Stubbings House to perform Shakespeare’s classic a Midsummer Night’s Dream.

And although it’s more than 400 years since Stratford’s famous son put pen to paper on the tale of fairies, sprites and romance, it remains a firm favourite among theatre lovers.

“I think there’s just so much in it,” said John Timewell, the production’s director, trying to make sense of its enduring popularity.

“Each time I read it and see it there’s something different about it, as there is in all Shakespeare.

“Shakespeare poses questions, he doesn’t give answers, and the questions here are what is love and what is the nature of love.

“Is it rational?

“Is it absurd?”

Absurd love might be, but possibly not as questionable as the decision to stage outdoor theatre in the middle of the notoriously fickle English summer.

But it’s not the weather that tends to throw the most hurdles in the way of open air productions, but rather the rather obvious inconvenience of not having an actual stage.

Timewell added: “You sort of feel that you’re not going to be in total control, but I think more than most plays though, this one lends itself to the outdoors.

“There’s problems of course, like the fact that you haven’t got a formal set and you’ve got to put up with the fact the trees might not be exactly where you want them.

“But that’s also part of the fun of it.”

It really is part of the appeal for the 76-year-old, who has been involved in the theatre since age seven, and finding solutions to such conundrums part of the pleasure of taking the helm.

“There’s practical problem like how do you get off stage and where are your wings because you haven’t really got them,” he said.

“So you’ve got to be creative with what you’ve got. But audiences usually adapt themselves and accept it’s all part of the fun.”

Fun is of course one of, if not the, key ingredient of a play like a Midsummer Night’s Dream.

It’s a work which has spawned some of the best-loved characters in the Bard’s canon, perhaps most famously Puck, the mischievous fairy who drives so much of the humour and is often one of the stand-out roles.

For Timewell however, the ‘mechanicals’, the group of slapstick workmen led by the hopeless Nick Bottom, are his personal favourites.

Asked why he thinks Shakespeare continued to be as popular today as he was hundreds of years ago, he replied it was a question with ‘so many answers’.

“His range is wonderful and he poses questions that are as relevant today as when he posed them originally,” he said.

“We’re still addressing the same ones today because we still don’t really know about the nature of authority or the true nature of love.”

Visit www.thegardenplayersweb.co.uk to find out more and book tickets.

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