Photos Reviews

A Midsummer Night's Dream

April 2016

To celebrate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death, here is a production of his best loved comedy set by director Bill Pattinson in the 1960s, the decade of the Summer of Love, when things were changing and there was an air of optimism and fun all around - well for a lot of the time anyway!


Theseus, Duke of Athens - Alan Caig

Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons - Molly Perryman

Egeus - Tom Epton

Hermia, his daughter - Joana Crisostomo

Lysander - Nigel Mason

Demetrius - Ian Potts

Helena - Marie Watsham

Attendant - Jill Whitehouse

Nick Bottom - Keith Palmer

Peter Quince - Rob Hole

Francis Flute - Howard Eilbeck

Tom Snout - Bob Drury

Snug - Rhodri Williams

Robin Starveling - Barrie Bissett

Oberon, King of the Fairies - David Batty

Titania, Queen of the Fairies - Clare Philbrock

Puck, a spirit - Chris Eilbeck

Moth - Maggie Bourgein

Mustard Seed - Hilary Francis

Peaseblossom - Avril Pattinson

Cobweb - Lynn Trout

Production Team:

Director - Bill Pattinson

Assistant Director - Avril Pattinson

Production Manager - Maggie Butt

Stage Manager - Janine Warre

Choreography - Avril Pattinson

with thanks to - Mike Boston, Great Western Morris

Costume - Janine Warre and Jill Whitehouse

Hair and makeup - Avril Pattinson and Clare Philbrock

Backstage - Jill Whitehouse, Cally Pettit

Prompt - Angela Wallwork

Lighting - Peter Tapp

Set and Publicity Design - Phil Keen

Set Construction - Eliot Wright, Phil Keen, John Bradley, Ian Jay

Sound - Ron Murray

Publicity - Maggie Butt, Angela Wallwork

Props - Janine Warre, Marie Watsham

Photography - Victoria Jones

Front of House - Rosie Munns and members of the company


From Unknown:

The choice of music gently reminded the audience to “think sixties” and provided for most of us a touch of nostalgia for our foolish (and enjoyable?!) youth

The Estuary Players may fall into the category of Amateur Dramatic Society by default, but a glance through the copious list of previous productions, and attendance at any in the last few years, will demand that you review that taxonomy. Amateur they may be but only in the sense of Olympic Athletes of the past, achieving great things solely for the love of taking part. Only the foolhardy or ambitious would tackle Shakespeare, let alone A Midsummers Nights Dream. It is to the credit of the cast, the director and the collective abilities of the team supporting them that they not only managed to perform it at all, but did so to a memorable standard. What an enjoyable evening.

A Midsummers Night Dream was first performed in 1595, probably as part of a wedding feast, and is held to be a total invention of The Bard who more usually took his plot or theme from existing stories and histories. The Estuary Players have performed this play once before; in 1987. Twenty nine years later this production has a sixties feel about it. The fairies doing the day job have apparently been to Woodstock over the weekend, judging by the sly spliff shared behind a tree and their familiarity with halucinagenic drugs. David Batty as Oberon radiated a regal sense of gravitas in spite of being dressed as a Star Trek villain from the original series. He looked great! Clare Philbrock as Titania was equally imposing and gave orders, as if to the manner born. One sensed that she could have ordered the audience to engage in all sorts of dubious deeds and they would have complied.

The inconstant lovers at the heart of the play were so well cast that I at least was drawn into their heartache and frustration. Joana Chrisostomo performing in her second (at least?) language tugged at the heart strings and her very slight accent lent a subtle air of the exotic to the performance. It is, however worth an admiring mention that Marie Watsham, who played Helena, stepped into the role less than two weeks ago. You would not have guessed; she was right up there with the best of her colleagues. As John Cleese once said, “ there’s more to acting than just getting the words in the right order you know”.

Bill Pattinson’s direction and choice of setting obviously helped the cast find their characters and sense of fun. His choice of music gently reminding the audience to “think sixties” and provide for most of us a touch of nostalgia for our foolish (and enjoyable?!) youth. A sentiment not incompatible with the theme of the play.

Chris Eilbeck, was delightful in the role of Puck, whose job of course is partly to explain to the audience what is going on without patronising them too much! Her character was a clever balance of lightness , as befits a Sprite, and a firmness of purpose which ran throughout the play holding everything together. Her disappearing twirl was so consistent that once or twice I really thought she might disappear! It is obviously great fun playing a Fairy and assuming different guises to tease and baffle humans. One of them I’m certain had gone back in time to become Polly Garter in the Estuary Players 1983 production of Under Milk Wood which was, by way of coincidence, the first time I ever saw the Estuary Player perform! It is a tribute to the enduring appeal of the Estuary Players that she, and many others, appear in programmes going back over three decades and are still in love with theatre here in Topsham. Equally encouraging too is that new names are added to cast and support team year on year.

Towards the end of the play we, the audience, are watching the Royal wedding party and the young lovers they have adopted, and all of us are watching the ‘Rude Mechanicals’ present a story of love which is deep and tragical and very, very funny. I’m sure Will the Quill was laughing out loud as he wrote lines to tease his actor friends and poke fun at competing contemporaries. Without their rustic and earthy humour A Midsummers Nights Dream would be a little bland: the ‘Rude Mechanicals’ undoubtedly give the play its special flavour as ours did this evening. I doubt anyone will get a BAFTA for playing a Wall or a Lanthorn but the play would be diminished without them. It is however worth mentioning Rhodri Williams as ‘Lion’ for his excellently apologetic, and not very scarey, “Roar” . Rob Hole as Peter Quince was charmingly long suffering and a little like Capt Mainwaring on a good day; patiently dealing with those in his charge and sidestepping their enthusiastic foolishness until he finally gave in and led the conga line of dancers around the set with an exuberance he had kept hidden until that point and about which his character seemed slightly embarrassed! However the character that everyone knows from ‘The Dream’ is Bottom with his asses ears. Ours, played by the excellent Keith Palmer was memorable. Bottom has the best lines and, played well, is often the most compelling character in the play especially when Peter Quince and the others feed him his lines so well, as they did this evening.

So, an excellent performance with an original set and imaginative direction acted by a cast with obvious experience and insight. Thank you all for your continuing contribution to our experience of Theatre. Finally, we come again to Bottom at the bottom of the page. It was a key role in an excellent production full of humour and pathos, so Keith; yes, your Bottom did look big in this! (But in a good way.)

- Reviewed by: Tim Johns


Click a thumbnail to view larger