CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Cotswold Life today CLICK HERE

A Midsummer Night's Dream

PUBLISHED: 10:53 14 March 2013 | UPDATED: 21:08 05 April 2013

A Midsummer Night's Dream

A Midsummer Night's Dream

A Bristol Old Vic production in association with Handspring Puppet Company

A Midsummer Night's Dream


Puppets, players and
bare-faced cheek



A Bristol Old Vic production in association with Handspring Puppet Company

In their first reunion since collaborating on the world-wide hit Warhorse, Bristol Old Vic artistic director Tom Morris and celebrated puppet company Handspring have created a stark yet stunning reimagining of Shakespeares fairy-filled dream. A set of loosely connected wooden planks, discarded ladders and woodworking tools provide a surprisingly versatile backdrop for the company as they move from Athenian court to woodland glade and back again. But anyone expecting a gentle jaunt through this wooden clad faerie-land is in for a rude awakening.

This highly anticipated production is a creative, surprising and bawdy romp of a dream. Theseus and Hippolyta look more like workmen than the rulers of Athens; Puck is played by not one but three actors interchangeably brandishing a blow torch, basket, saw and garden fork to create the knavish sprite; and Bottoms transformation into an ass is shockingly literal. In this timeless retelling, Shakespeares text plays second fiddle to bare-faced visual comedy and Handsprings unconventional puppets.

The combination of puppetry and players is one of the most talked about elements of Bristol Old Vics Dream, and its realisation is both beautiful and strange. The four human lovers each carry their own mini wooden counterpart, rude mechanicals are seen sculpting, and later using, the crude figures of Pyramus and Thisbe, and umbrellas are repurposed as the purple blooms of love-in-idleness.

The balance of puppets and people really shines within Titania and Oberons magical realm. Saskia Portway as Hippolyta and David Ricardo Pearce as Theseus are transformed into the King and Queen of the fairies with giant sparkly-eyed carved wooden masks held above their heads. Gliding above the action, these fairy monarchs have an ethereal omnipotence which is rarely seen in more mortal productions. Moth, Mustardseed, Peaseblossom and Cobweb, crafted from found objects and sculpted wood, are grabbing and disturbing fairy henchmen with devilish tendencies, more nightmare than dream.

Alongside the imagination and impressive mechanics, this is also one of the funniest interpretations of the bards dream I have seen. Many of the laughs come from the physical comedy with the climax of Helena and Hermias love rivalry, and Snouts top-heavy wall in the play-within-a-play particular highlights. The biggest joke of the evening was reserved, naturally, for Bottom, played brilliantly by Miltos Yerolemou. His transformation into an ass finds Bottom trussed upside-down to a hand-propelled four-wheel bicycle bare-cheeked-posterior facing up, donkey ears strapped to his feet. Undeniably shocking, and raising more than a titter from the audience, this literal interpretation of Bottoms name certainly left a lasting impression.

Tom Morris faerie-land is a world-away from the romantic lushness so often associated with A Midsummer Nights Dream. Its a fresh, disorientating, imaginative production which really has to be seen to be believed. Even the most committed of Dream devotees will be surprised by the puppets, impressed by the physical comedy, and just a little shocked at the rudest of rude mechanicals.

A Midsummer Nights Dream is at Bristol Old Vic until May 4. www.bristololdvic.org.uk

0 comments

More from Out & about

Chipping Campden – once the meeting place for a council of Saxon kings – now offers the warmest of welcomes to all its visitors, from the humble shopper to the seasonal shin-kicker

Read more

Taking the classroom outdoors is fun, inspires fresh ideas, broadens horizons – and encourages a new generation to enjoy and care for the Cotswolds

Read more
Thursday, November 15, 2018

As well as three days of action-packed racing and tradition, there’s plenty to do away from the course at this year’s November Meeting. Neil Phillips, The Wine Tipster, shares his 14 suggestions on how to make the most of your time at Cheltenham Racecourse

Read more
Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The Warwickshire town of Alcester is considered one of the best understood Roman settlements in the country. Tracy Spiers digs below the surface to discover its hidden jewels

Read more

Thanks to the impact of ground-breaking comedy This Country, the quiet market town of Northleach has become one of the Cotswolds’ hottest film locations. Katie Jarvis is sent to investigate

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Stephen Roberts walks in the footsteps of the Oxford scholar who enjoyed attending parties dressed as a polar bear, and once chased a neighbour while dressed as an axe-wielding Anglo-Saxon

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

I send this postcard from Cirencester, complete with the discoveries and viewpoints from four members of my family – both the young and not so young

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

If you’re looking for things to do in the Cotswolds this month, we have gathered plenty of events for you to pop in your diary

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

One hundred years ago this month the guns fell silent, marking the end of what was to become known as The Great War. Stephen Roberts remembers the impact the war had on Cotswold lives from 1914-1918

Read more
Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Being a region so steeped in history, there are plenty of locations in the Cotswolds with spooky stories from over the years. From bloody executions, eerie apparitions and headless horsemen, we pick 23 of the most haunted locations throughout the Cotswolds to visit if you dare

Read more
Tuesday, October 30, 2018

New bat cams installed at Woodchester Mansion help study protected breeds while also becoming an added attraction for visitors. Jo Barber looks at the work of one of the UK’s foremost bat experts and the mansion’s valued volunteers

Read more
Tuesday, October 30, 2018

From an all-boy, all boarding prep school for just 30 pupils, to the quietly trailblazing yet still traditional school it is today – here is a snapshot of Beaudesert over its 110-year history

Read more
Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Of all the castles in the region, none have seen as much war, romance and royalty as Sudeley over its dramatic 1,000-year history. And with such a colourful and eventful past, it is easy to see why some people believe there could be spirits from bygone eras which still wander the halls and corridors to this day

Read more
Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Following a record year for ‘visitor giving’ donations via local businesses, applications are invited to fund conservation projects

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory A+ Education

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search