"A quite mesmerising production" says NODA Review

Sleaford Little Theatre is a member of the National Operatic and Dramatic Association (NODA) and is a leading representative body for amateur theatre in the UK with a membership of 2,500 amateur theatre groups. NODA brings a wide range of benefits for all its members. These include education and training, NODA Insurance, DBS, long service awards, conferences and networking opportunities, discounts and exclusive special offers, advice and representation, and access to over 150 exclusive pantomimes, musicals and plays.

For every performance SLT produces, the East Midlands NODA representative is invited to review and produce a production report which later can turn into a nomination for the NODA awards held every year.

There was no exception for "A Midsummer Night's Dream", the first production in over 1 and a half years due to COVID and SLT's first outdoor production in 71 years of the societies history.

The NODA representative, Andrew Key, visited our production on Thursday 15th July 2021 and provided us with what we feel is a very complimentary review shortly after.


Name of Company: Sleaford Little Theatre A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Venue: Rauceby Hall near Sleaford Director: Maria Bates

Music Directors: Nigel Creasey and Teri Clarke Choreographer: Kelsey Pakes

Date of Review: Thursday 15th July 2021

The onset of COVID has made many organisations think ‘outside the box’ over the last eighteen months and Sleaford Little Theatre has been no exception. With normal business suspended they came up with a first for the society, an open air production. And what an inspired and successful move that has turned out to be.

Tickets for William Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ sold out in advance and extra audience places were accommodated.

Arriving at Rauceby Hall near Sleaford on a lovely sunny summer’s evening, I knew I was going to be in for a treat. What a tremendous setting for this most popular of the Bard’s comic tales. Idyllic indeed. And with carefully measured out COVID secure seating I for one, felt incredibly safe and relaxed. The welcome, as ever, from this Society was warm and wonderful after such a pause in productions.

As Puck and the fairies presented a colourful, musically delightful opening to the play, the nearby field of sheep joined in with the action from the beginning, their harmonious bleating seeming to build to a crescendo at just the right dramatic points in the drama, without ever once detracting from the action.

And nature played its part all through the production, the setting sun adding to the mystical atmosphere of the ‘forest’, as if on cue, the stage enriched by the grandeur of the phormiums and evergreens of Rauceby Hall’s long planted gardens.

This really was a quite exceptional production. Though 71 years young, Shakespeare is only a recently tackled challenge by Sleaford Little Theatre but you wouldn’t have guessed that.

Maria Bates the Director somehow managed to pull this epic production together, starting with Zoom rehearsals back in February and progressing to the venue more latterly, though only very recently with the entire cast. She really did achieve a ‘dream’ of a play. And it was a real ensemble piece with each performer complimenting the others and generously sharing the limelight.

There were some lovely scenes during the play and some real emotion from the actors. Hermia, played so convincingly by Helen Pack delivered many memorable lines, among them: ‘we must starve our sight from love’s food,’ to Lysander, played wonderfully by Briony Sparrow. And then of course there were her ingenious insults to Helena (Hayley Goymer): ‘canker blossom’ and ‘painted maypole’ worthy of any soap opera duff duff moment.

The quartet of Hermia, Helena, Lysander and Demetrius (Caroline Johnson) worked so well together, all well matched and equally confidently portrayed. Such a muddle of emotions from this ‘confederacy’ was delightfully acted out. Hayley confidently and professionally was not to be put off from delivering a marvellously performed soliloquy by a passing light aircraft. I’m sure Shakespeare’s own actors had far worse to contend with!

Quince (Kei Bailey) and his eclectic band of tradesmen, come roving actors were a delight as they heroically rehearsed an epic tale for the wedding breakfast. The wonderful comically well timed over acting of Bottom (Laura Griffin) was somehow kept in check by the harassed Quince. Laura was a bundle of energy from the very beginning, the addition of the asses head not slowing her down one bit.

Fairy King and Queen Oberon (Tony Gordon) and Titania (Jo Warrick) skilfully manoeuvred us through the story as the complications of Shakespeare’s plot were unravelled and finally resolved before us. Indeed, every member of the cast had their part to play and their place to be throughout it all and did not disappoint.

This production was indeed a team effort, but one performance really was so very exceptionally convincing and entertaining. Joanne Moules’ Puck was right on the money. ‘Watch me go my Lord’ she said and watch her go we all did. Mischievous she was indeed as she manipulated the cast to do her will. I loved Joanne’s accent and characterisation of this most iconic of parts. Very well done indeed.

As the different scenes unfolded, the whole thing was knitted skilfully together by the most wonderful music. Nigel Creasey and Teri Clarke, the Musical Directors produced a score to the play that is still going round and round in my head many hours later. And Teri sang with the voice of an angel, transporting us all back more than 400 years to those early Shakespearean days. The ensemble singing and especially the harmonies were enchanting. Kelsey Pakes’ choreography throughout was very sympathetic and appropriate to the story too. Costumes by Pam Volanakis were entirely in tune with the magic of the evening.

As the play drew to a close and the sun was setting, the cleverly positioned coloured lighting gave a new perspective to the denouement of the action. Mystical, magical, ethereal. The sound too was so well executed ensuring we could all hear every word. Well done to all the production crew.

And so Puck drew the proceedings to a close and the audience made its way through the darkening night to the car park.

Well done Sleaford Little Theatre on a quite mesmerising production of this wonderful play. The setting, the acting, direction and production all came together to produce something quite wonderful and long awaited by us all through the dark days of COVID. Jane Guest’s project management must have been taxing at times to say the least.
Thank you SLT for entertaining us once more.

May we all soon meet again in the Playhouse. My very best wishes and thanks to you all.

Andrew Key

16th July 2021

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