In late august this year my Arts Award group and I got the chance to go and see the changeling theatre’s production of Shakespeare’s beloved tale A Midsummer Night’s dream. It’d been a long time since I’d managed to go and see a live performance of any kind due to covid. During my bronze Arts Award I watched a recording of a theatre production on Youtube which was great fun but it doesn’t compare to going to an event in person and being totally immersed in the experience.
As a group our Arts Award group decided we wanted to go and see an event together and that we’d like to see something in person as we hadn’t been able to for such a long time; we spoke about films or going to the theatre but we ended up settling on a trip to Margate to watch A Midsummer Night’s Dream - Penny and I had seen a few Shakespeare productions in the past and It’s something I personally love so it fitted us perfectly and it ended up being wonderful evening of having our feet in the sand and watching the sun set behind the stage, the atmosphere and setting brought the whole production together and it wouldn’t have been the same anywhere else.
During my bronze award we were able to meet up with a local writer called Rachel who spoke to us about how and why to write reviews; we started out by creating a list of the things we liked and disliked about the events we were reviewing and discussing the different creative forms, this was something that I’ve found incredibly valuable over the years and I definitely followed a similar structure for writing my reviews for silver. In terms of why we were writing reviews it was great to speak to Rachel as she works in the industry, we spoke about reviewing films and events for future viewers but also about the impact a negative review can have on the artists. The main thing I took from these discussions was that it's encouraged for us to have our own opinions about the events, we aren’t simply stating facts and figures but trying to speak about how they personally affected us.
The production we decided on was by a theatre company that I’d seen once before called The Changeling Theatre: The Changeling Theatre are a theatre company based in Kent who where founded in 1997, they spend every summer travelling around and performing a different Shakespeare production each year, -A few years ago I watched Hamlet in the castle gardens in the town I live in and loved it - they’re a mixture of local and professional actors and they also run a program to help kick start the careers of young people in theatre. The thing that always strikes me about their performances are their fresh interpretations of Shakespeare’s work which is something I think must be incredibly hard; not only are they trying to engage an audience of people who for the most part don’t understand the vocabulary but they’re also trying to maintain the integrity of one of the most highly respected British plays ever written. There were points when I felt the balance was a little off but all in all I think they did a phenomenal job - the play was performed word for word as far as I could tell but it was performed with a lot of modern aspects which makes everything feel a lot more accessible — All the actors wore modern day clothing which felt like a nice change but I found myself often getting confused between characters; in A Midsummer Night’s Dream there are three main groups of characters: The Mortals, The Mechanicals (the group in the woods rehearsing for a play) and The Fairies, no two groups were ever on the stage at one time because each actor played several parts, usually one in each group. I was slightly confused who was who for the first half an hour or so which I think could’ve been fixed with some slightly more drastic costume changes, although that’s not to say there weren’t some amazing costumes and sets, the fairies at the end especially wore beautiful dresses and the stage was broken up with a small, lit up tree which helped to light up the stage along with the large flood lights placed around the stage. After a while I got accustomed to who everyone was and it didn’t particularly bother me. Their plays always have a comical strip throughout the shows and this time that consisted of a fair few dirty jokes when it came to the romantic scenes and several times the cast burst into a fully choreographed dance to some of RuPaul’s songs, despite the fact this was being performed to a very British audience after a while everyone was standing up and dancing along.
One thing that did take away from the performance was the fact that there seemed to be a specific spot on the stage with signal issues and whenever an actor would walk across the area their microphone would cut out, although this made it hard to hear at points it didn’t happen too often and it’s just one of the dangers of open air theatre; considering everything was set up in a day it felt like everything that needed to be there was there including a raised stage, large speakers and stage lights as well as somewhere to hire deck chairs. The spot on the beach where the stage was set up was pretty central to the town which meant there was often competing noise especially from a nearby pub that seemed to be turning its music up to drown out the performance but you have to expect things like this from an open air performance.
One of the magical things the company manage to achieve is making such a modern audience appreciate Shakespeare’s work, I’ve always found Shakespeare’s writing hard to understand and I haven’t always been able to enjoy the adaptations I’ve seen but this is never a problem with the changeling theatre, they can ignite a passion for Shakespeare’s work in anyone and they certainly helped with mine. It’s also made me think a lot more about the theatre industry in general and reminded me of my interest in maybe one day joining a drama group.
Going to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream feels like a hazy memory now but certainly a very happy one. All the actors where incredibly enthusiastic and it truly made the performance. If you’re up for a modern take on one of Shakespeare’s wonderful tales I would highly recommend going to see the Changeling Theatre and spending a night under the stars.