Left to Right: Pat Moylan (Chairman, the Arts Council), Ben Hennessy (Director, Red Kettle), Seamus Power, Libby Seward (Movement Director, Animated State Dance Theatre Company), Caroline Senior (Arts Council member & Garter Lane), Jim Nolan (Text Director). | Photos by Joan Dalton
There were lots of happy and contented faces leaving the Red Kettle Theatre production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream in a circus tent beside the park. The applause was warm and supportive and it was obvious that a good time was had and whatever fears, apprehensions and pretentions, they might have had about a complicated comedy were dispelled. The place was right, the price was right (at €10) and Ben Hennessy was right to persist with his dream. He surrounded himself with a fine cast who rose to the broad comic touches and the antics of the Rude Mechanicals who presented a play of sorts, within the play, and kept the audience eager for more. No mean feat.
The play tells a story of three sets of lovers, a band of otherworld fairies, a hobgoblin, some love potions and a cast of strolling players, the mechanicals, who want to put on a play to celebrate the nuptials and moonlight.
Some people think the play is a series of dreams, mortal dreams, secret dreams, fairy dreams, theatrical dreams and possibly bestial dreams, that take place over four days in an enchanted forest.
The setting, in a circus tent, aided the sylvan setting and indeed it was a forest with a series of paths or ramps to create levels of interest. There was even a pool set beneath a trickling stream,
The comedy was broad, with even an entrance of John Thompson as an Athenium Eunuch. Demetrius, an earnest lover, had Clark Kent glasses. But, for me, this broad comedic approach, took away some of the mystery, some of the possibilities of dreams and I missed the moonlight that suffuses the actual text.
Lighting was sometimes a puzzle, as was varying levels of sound and the mix of costumes suggested several time periods but this did not seem to matter to the obvious enjoyment of the evening.
Sometimes I winced at over-acting and too loud a vocal sound.
Ben Hennessy assembled a fine cast of quality local actors and Fair City star, Seamus Power as Bottom, was excellent and carried the work over sticky dialogue patches. The audience couldn’t get enough of him. His work in the skin part with an asses head was assured and his dying act was a howl.
Des Manahan was a good Philostrate with Liam Butler as Theseus and Shauna Farrell s Hippolyta. Kieran Doyle was sharp as Egeus, who wanted his daughter’s death, if she didn’t marry the partner he chose for her. Conor Halpin Jr was a straight-laced Demetrius in glasses. Alex Browne was a rebel in leather jacket and duck’s arse hairstyle as Lysander.
I wasn’t sure what to make of Eoin Lynch as a balletic energetic Oberon who kept climbing trees and stantsions as did Freddie Quinlan as Puck. Jenni Ledwell was a witchy Titania.
Anne Riordan was delightful as the dogged Helena and Holly Browne was wonderful in every way as Hermia. Jenny Clooney was swimming as Fairy.
But the heart of this production was the Rude Mechanicals, with Seamus Power to the fore. I loved the bicycles from the Kevin Kline movie and the song from Maritana. Ben Quinlan was a treat as Anug and Thisbe, Jamie Murphy was a scream as Starveling and Moonshine. Andrew Holden was a roaring success as Lion and Joe Meagher left no stone unturned as Snout and Wall and he had me in stitches. Nick Kavanagh was impressive as Quince.
It was wonderful to see Jim Nolan back as Text Director, but nobody had mobile phones.
After the show, an almost full moon (how slow this old moon wanes) shone out through a halo of cloud and just below it was the bright Jupiter.
Red Kettle does not wane, shining now so bright in golden glittering gleams.