Is there a better place to put on one of Shakespeare’s most enchanting plays than at the Watermill Theatre? This theatrical gem holds years of history behind its breathtaking beauty.
As a producing house, the Watermill mounts some 12 new productions annually, from classic plays to visionary musicals. The intimate 200 seater theatre is a piece of art that captures the most incredible theatre experience.
The converted watermill in the village of Bagnor, Newbury is a charming and quaint building that is full of so much heart. Building a name for itself as one of the strongest producing regional theatres, its productions have gone from strength to strength with transfers and UK tours. However, it isn’t just the excellency of the theatre that it’s known for, but it oozes with charm. From the gorgeous rustic conversion of the theatre, to the stream running through the grounds, or the ducks wandering around the entrance, it’s a really unique venue.
Tackling Shakespeare’s whimsical comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream, artistic director Paul Hart has created a truly special production that is entirely captivating. Created with a cast of actor-musicians, they bring the story to life through detailed characterisation and a sublime soundtrack. This production enhances the wit of the script to create brilliant characters that engage an audience of all ages, whether Shakespeare buffs or not.
The iconic comedy tells the tale of magic, mischief and mistaken identity. Focusing on three parallel stories: the trials and tribulations of two sets of lovers in a mystical forest, the world of the Fairy King and Queen and their elves, and a group of craftsmen putting on a production of ‘Pyramus and Thisby’ for the wedding of the Duke of Athens.
Despite the multiple storylines, director Hart manages to craft the play with clarity, even with the multi-roling. Victoria Blunt shines as the entirely expressive Northern lass portrayal of Bottom. With remarkable stage presence and superb energy, her charismatic comedy timing commands the audience.
The excitement builds as characters enter and exit the stage from the aisles, balcony and through the audience, keeping the pace alive. Jamie Satterthwaite masters Shakespeare’s poetic language as he balances the masculine Oberon with the shadowing Starveling. Emma McDonald brings an air of grace to her strong-headed and regal Titania with her powerful performance.
The whole cast give an extraordinary performance that is playful, joyous and created with a delightful sense of humour. Intertwined within the humour of the production are some truly stunning moments, such Sophie Stone’s Hermia and Tyrone Huntley’s Lysander use of sign language in their close and tender moments of intimacy.
A creative use of music magnifies the mesmerism of the performance. The ensemble use tight, delicate harmonies to create a beguiling ambience. Musical Director Joey Hickman, who also plays Demetrius and Flute in the show has done a tremendous job arranging the alluring music.
Visiting the Watermill reminded me the true meaning of theatre – storytelling. When you have an audience of young kids to old grandparents laughing, cheering and totally enthralled, you realise what theatre really has the power to do. The intimacy really brings the actors and the audience together as one to create total escapism, and the closest thing we have to magic.
On until the 16th of June, tickets and information can be found on the Watermill Theatre’s website.
Photo – Scott Rylander