I had booked the afternoon and the morning of the 13th off work as I was going to see Gareth in his latest play at Nottingham. Bearing in mind talk of an impending fuel crisis I decided to go by train instead of driving, and arrived about 3pm (stay with me - this is all relevant). Having booked in at my hotel I explored Nottingham and decided to buy a bottle of wine for future consumption (experience telling me this would a good idea in view of theatre bar prices). I was informed that Sainsbury's was "a few minutes along the canal tow path", 25mins later after a hot dusty walk I found it, then 25mins back to the hotel for a quick bath and change for the theatre. They have a very funny view of "a short distance - easily walked" in Nottingham. Told not to bother with a taxi, I walked to the theatre, getting lost twice, and meeting more people begging in the streets here than in London, Liverpool, or any where else I can think of!
The Nottingham Playhouse finally found, I settled down with anticipation heightened by the wonderful scenery setting for the start of the play where Theseus (Gareth) is arranging amusements with his conquered foe Hippolyta for their forthcoming wedding. A group of tradesmen decide to prepare a play - Pyramus and Thisbe - and Hermia arrives with two suitors vying for her hand, but is ordered to marry Demetrius instead of Lysander. They decide to run away, telling their plans to Helena who rushes to tell Demetrius, whom she loves. Meanwhile, the king and queen of the fairies, Oberon (Gareth) and Titania, have fallen out and Oberon instructs Puck to pour a love-juice on Titania so that she falls in love with the first thing she sees when she wakes, and also on Demetrius whom he has just seen spurning Helena. Puck in error anoints Lysander who falls in love with the neglected Helena and abandons Hermia.
Meanwhile Bottom and the other tradesmen are rehearsing and Puck mischievously crowns Bottom with an ass's head, and of course this is the first thing Titania sees when she awakes. The four lovers have to sort out their various confusions with Oberon's help, Demetrius's love for Helena igniting when he sees Lysander wooing her (how like a man!), and Puck putting his error right with more recourse to the love-potion. Titania's comical wooing of Bottom with an ass's head is probably the most well known part of this play, and Sandra Duncan makes it a very lustful and sexy portrayal of obsessive love, which may explain why Oberon rapidly removes the spell and becomes reconciled to Titania!
At the wedding feast, Bottom's players perform their (unintentionally) "comic" tragedy - it's worth going to see `Dream' for this performance alone - it really is funny - the lovers all marry the right people and all ends well.
My initial enthusiasm for the scenery diminished somewhat during the play as it creaked and groaned with every change - where's the WD 40 - hopefully they will put this right. I am not sure why the woodland scene contains a pool of water unless it's for the express purpose of allowing Puck (Veronica Leer) to pee in, as little boys do, to shock the fairies. This is a wonderful moment as it takes a few minutes to realise that Puck is actually played by a female! Other parts of the scenery include Oberon and Titania meeting by virtue of standing on planks, which are continually raised and lowered from above. I kept worrying about their reliability. I think all the actors performed with enthusiasm and energy and this is a quality production. I daresay I am biased where Gareth is concerned but I have never seen him give a sub-standard performance - his professionalism, experience and sheer class always shine through. I would also pick out Sandra Duncan as Titania/Hippolyta, Bottom (Martin Herdman) - former 1980's Olympic Squad boxer in a previous incarnation -, but especially Puck (Veronica Leer) whom I consider stole the show. Her energy must be boundless.
The only reservation I have is with the costumes - Gareth's outfit as Oberon looks as though it belongs in Ali Baba and the forty thieves - it definitely struck me as eastern, Titania is also under-dressed compared to Oberon's opulence. The minute I saw the fairies's antics on stage they reminded me of something/someone and later it hit me - Zill in Blake's 7 -I'm not inventing this, see it for yourselves and let me know if you agree!
After the play I said a brief hello to Gareth and one or two of the other actors, but they were all rushing off to the press night party. Gareth obligingly ordered a taxi for me - I wasn't walking again - and mentioned he would be free for a couple of hours the next morning after doing a press interview. I regretfully turned down the chance of a chat and a drink as I had promised to return to work by lunchtime. However, next morning, after exploring Nottingham's underground caves - a must - when I tried to catch my train there was chaos at the station due to a derailment on my line, and the escalating fuel crisis. Faced with no trains going in my direction, and the choice of Skegness or London directions only, I had no choice but to phone work and explain my absence and then to belatedly catch up with Gareth at the theatre bar. Fortunately he was just finishing his press interview, and we were able to have that drink and chat after all (I told you the trains were relevant). Well, what else could I have done?????
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Last updated on 22nd of October 2000.