SHAKESPEARE Live transport their audience into a dream world of fantasy and confusion where nothing is as it seems in their latest production, ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’.

The play’s magical qualities are brought to life in director Rod Moor-Bardell’s staging and interpretation of the Bard’s classic and Shakespeare Live are clearly on a roll with this production in their 29th year.

It starts with a single combat between Theseus, Duke of Athens, and his intended wife, Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons. Once Hippolyta becomes a spoil of war and Theseus’ bride-to-be, the audience are taken into a world where fantasy and reality mingle.

Myths and magic, theatre and love are all intertwined, with some absolutely splendid performances from the four young lovers, Oscar Davis (Lysander), Elliott Davis (Demetrius), Phoebe Wood-Wheelhouse (Hermia), and particularly Maddy Steggall (Helena), whose non-verbal facial expressions were a joy to watch. They were ably supported by Laurence Parnell (Theseus), John Jameson-Davis (Egeus), and Claire Wallis (Hippolyta).

In this play, it is usually the rude mechanicals who steal the show and this production is no exception. There were some wonderful performances from Steve Sprosson, (Bottom/Pyramus), Matt Bragg (Francis Flute/Thisbe), and Francis Holmes (Peter Quince). I should also give a special mention to Graham Paton (Tom Snout/Wall), whose accent and mannerisms were very reminiscent of John Laurie’s Private Frazer in Dad’s Army.

Last, but not least, there were strong performances from Jeremy Fowlds (Oberon), Jude Bucklow (Titania) and Paul Batson (Puck) whose interpretation reminded me of Keith Richards from the Rolling Stones. The dancers from the Fitzgraham Academy of Dance were absolutely enchanting and inventive, particularly when using their youthful athleticism to spell out the word ‘Interval’ just before the break. Choreography is by Rebecca Petty-Fitzmaurice, Lauren Davis and Elliott Davis.

Costumes by Lauren Davis are excellent and sound is by Richard Cater ably assisted by Simon Stafford. Lighting is by Antony White. Set design is by Julia Marshall-Wessendorf, assisted by Rob Cannings.

If I have any criticisms it’s of the two totally unnecessary flashing light sequences in the second half and the shambolic dance at the end of the play where the whole cast cater around madly instead of taking a proper bow. Director please take note.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is being staged in the open air at Cleeve House, Seend, until Saturday. There are only a few tickets left for Friday night and the Saturday Gala - call 07780 938107 to check availability.

John Baker