|Stafford Borough Council presents the Stafford
Shakespeare Festivals production of
A Midsummers Nights Dream
by Peter Dayson
28 June - Saturday 14 July 2001 - Open Air at Stafford
Castle - Box Office 01785 254653
Willcox as Titania and Hippolyta
Paul Henry as
Paul Fox as Lysander
Chloe Newsome as Puck
as Theseus and Oberon
Gina Isaac as Helena
Matt Blair as Demetrius
the 80s she was called the Princess of Punk.
Last year she played the Wicked Queen in the pantomime
White. But this
time Toyah really excels herself by playing TWO
queens in this new production of the unique
tale. She is not only Hippolyta, Queen of the
Amazons (!) but also Titania, Queen of the Fairies
and wife of Oberon.
publicity notices say, Stafford Shakespeare Festival
brings together a wealth of theatrical talent from film,
theatre, in a festival with a reputation for high
standards and artistic and box office success. And this
year is no
exception. And what a better location for
such a production than the English countryside on a balmy
summer evening? Soon we are there with the characters, in
Athens and in the nearby woods, their costumes based on
Edwardian and Victorian designs. Needless to say, the
fairies dressed as fairies.
here is a resume of the plot -
Duke of Athens, is to marry Hippolyta.
Hermia is in
love with Lysander, but Hermias father wants
her to marry Demetrius.
and Lysander elope. But Hermia has confided
in Helena who is herself in love with Demetrius.
Helena betrays the
couple to Demetrius in the hope of winning his affection.
WOODS Oberon and Titania, the King
and Queen of the Fairies quarrel. Oberon revenges himself
Titania by casting
a spell on her which will make her fall in love with
whoever/whatever she sees upon waking. His
loyal servant Puck
assists by administering the magic.
Demetrius and Helena - who are searching for Hermia in
the woods - argue. Oberon decides to help
Helena by sending
Puck to put the love-spell on Demetrius.
Hermia and Lysander lie asleep in the woods. Puck
mistakenly puts the
spell on Lysander , who wakes, sees Helena and falls in
love with her.
Puck plays a joke on a workman named Bottom by
giving him an asss head. Bottom and his
amateur dramatics in the woods. Queen Titania wakes
and falls in love with him!
then puts the love-spell on Demetrius who also falls in
love with Helena!
with me? So the scene is set for much fun and
fairy frolicking in the woods . Eventually after
conflict, spell reversal and general sorting out, all is
well with everyone being matched up correctly to the
one they love.
All are blessed by
the reconciled Oberon and Titania
workmen perform their play at the celebrations. It is an
course there really is a lot more to it than that, but
how much time and webspace do you have!?
almost 3 hours (including a 25 minute break) the
performance I attended on June 30 was enjoyed by a packed
house of over 800
people. A steep 10 minute walk from the car park to
the hill-top Stafford Castle brought me to the
theatre, consisting of 3 small but smart scaffolding
grandstands each with its own tiered seating,
lighting towers etc. These structures surround on 3
sides the marvellous - and extensive - woodland
set designed by
Barry Smith. Included are a real stream with a bridge,
some 3 feet tall giant toadstools, a huge tree
branches and a secret door, and many items of greenery
and general magic forest bits and pieces.
first appears as Hippolyta, hair pulled loosely back and
wearing a figure hugging full length black and white
dress. Very formal
and regal. Before long she is back, in the major
role of Titania, elbow length blond hair spilling in
large amounts over
the front of her beautiful light blue fairy queen
dress. Full length once again, with many fairy
feathers, and with hip high slits over each leg.
Very sleek and teasing. Obviously relishing the
immense stage presence is instantly noticeable. She
has said that she finds the language of Shakespeare
and she pours it forth with passion and intensity.
She is the future wife of and great support to Theseus.
An annoying, obstinate and misbehaving wife to
Oberon. A much loved and cherished queen to the gentle
fairies who care for her. And a lustful lover for
wonderful comedy ensues between Toyah and Bottom, alias
Paul Henry . This is a far different Paul Henry
from the man
remembered as Benny in the original
Crossroads soap. A crafted actor with tremendous
makes the role of Bottom his own. They both have us
in stitches, and spontaneous applause is drawn on
plays her roles with enthusiasm and panache, revealing
once again what a multi-dimensional talent she is.
Clearly on top form
she sweeps around the stage set. She growls, purrs,
giggles, and even wriggles as she shows
comic timing of
brilliance as her love affair with Bottom develops into
bawdy fun. The desire for his attention is
clear as you feel
the chemistry of desire in her voice. Again,
applause from the appreciative among us.
Henry receives much applause at the finale, with only
Toyah receiving more - noticeably more in fact, and draws a large
cheer from the grateful playgoers.
all a good night for all involved both on and off the
stage. And a good night for The Bard too, whose work will
forever as long as such excellent productions exist. And
a very good night for Ms Willcox.
Oh, and our very
own fireworks display above the castle as we left
really only scheduled for 16 performances?
Richards. Your man in Stafford.