A Midsummer Night’s Dream 2011

Directed by Jo Puttick

Photographs from the show

Slideshow is automatic

Photographer: Linsey O’Neil

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Wessex Actors on tour

IT might seem like the hopeful fantasy of a clammy night to imagine you could start a new touring theatre company in this year of swingeing cuts to arts budgets and less and less disposable income for average families. But Jo Puttick, whose co-operative company Wessex Actors was launched last year, crossed his fingers and forged ahead with his opening production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and a triumphant debut it has been.

Drawing on some of the best known and most experienced actors in the south east and coastal areas of Dorset, many of whom cut their alfresco teeth on Brownsea Island, he has devised a sparkling, magical and entirely accessible version of the popular play.

Jo performed as Bottom in the Dream both for Brownsea Open Air Theatre and for the Millennium celebrations at Corfe Castle. And during those productions ideas formulated for his own version.
It’s not new to have the fairies as punks – the RSC did it years ago – but the Wessex Fairies, doubling up as the mechanicals for the play of Pyramus and Thisbe, are something else again.

Excellent costumes by Quick Changes provide enough visual interest to render complex sets and clever lights unnecessary, and the show is timed to end before the sun sets.

The 16-strong cast is strongly delineated as Athenian nobles, rough workmen and invisible spirits.

The excellent Frank Holden, an actor of great gravitas and girth, convinces as the impish Puck, this time a weary fairy with a less than eager approach to his work.

Harry Susser and Linsey O’Neil epitomise the spatting fairy royals, he archly observing human foibles and she charmed into falling for a donkey.

Jon Evans, Mike Hill, Scott Sullivan and Paul de Burton are wonderfully grungy rapping fairies, with Scott also providing a memorable death of Thisbe, and poor Jon as an increasingly exasperated man in the moon.

Dave Clements is a splendid Bottom, all bombast and braggadocio tempered by that wonderfully sweet open smile.

The director has brought together a strong cast for his opening production. The Wessex Actors Midsummer Night’s Dream opened at the walled garden of Upton Park on Poole Harbour for eight performances, and now continues at Charlton Down Cricket Club tomorrow, Saturday 23rd July, Poundbury on Sunday 24th, and ends at Swans Rugby Football Ground in Wareham on Sunday 31st July.

There are matinee and early evening performances at each venue. Log onto www.wessex-actors-company.co.uk for more details.

Gay Pirrie-Weir – Blackmore Vale Magazine

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM

Upton Park, Poole

CAN there be such a thing as an elderly fairy? This bunch of actors certainly seem to think so.

Forget dainty little girls with gossamer wings and frilly dresses, the fairies in this Wessex Actors Company production are all men who are grizzled and grey, not to mention that naughty little sprite Puck who turns out to be a white bearded granddad.

The launch of this new professional company of players is a welcome treat indeed for Dorset theatregoers, the aim being to present well-loved classic works in afternoon outdoor locations around the county.

In this their opening production, a large cast of actors take Shakespeare’s comedy to new heights of silliness in the fictional forest as the old fairies get rapping and the young lovers get napping.

Dave Clements is suitably over the top in his role as Bottom the weaver while Frank Holden as Puck somehow makes the grade even though he looks just like Santa Claus in a frock.

Jo Puttick’s direction keeps the comedy on course and even manages to share some of Shakespeare’s most beautiful lines, thanks to a goodly cast of actors who, with few props and scenery, bring to life the dream-like atmosphere of this classic work.

There will be further performances at Upton Park on July 16 and 17, followed by Charlton Down Cricket Club on 23rd July and Poundbury on 24th July.

Marion Cox – Dorset Echo

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM

AS stated in their performance information, ‘as all performances are in the open air, the weather will obviously make each one unique,’ but thankfully on this occasion the weather could not have been better for ‘Dorset’s newest theatre company’s’ debut production.

Having taken the open-air risk factor by setting their performance in Upton House’s Walled Garden, they couldn’t have selected a better location, the cast’s superb diction bouncing around the walls providing excellent clarity throughout.

Having seen the RSC perform in this very location only a few weeks ago, along with A Midsummer Night’s Dream being a play very close to my own heart; the Wessex Actors Company (WAC) had a lot to live up to on this occasion. Directed by Jo Puttick, with a proven track record in local theatre, by the end of the first scene it was a bar clearly not too high to reach for this newly created company.

It was a joy to see many familiar local thespian faces amongst the cast, especially in Dave Clements and Scott Sullivan who both created comically brilliant performances. Both of these actors are a joy to watch and the relationship between all the ‘mechanicals’ worked fantastically well, picking up the pace of the play, and with it the amusement factor of the production – especially during their highly entertaining rendition of the ‘Pyramus and Thisbe’ play within a play.

The actors as a whole created a strong performance and I was especially impressed by Neil Mathieson and Jeremy Mills (Theseus and Egeus respectively) who, despite relatively small speaking parts had notable stage presence and played these characters to the finest ability I have seen both locally and professionally.

There were some interesting casting choices made for this production, such as all-male ‘fairies’ who looked remarkably like creatures from the ‘ugly bug ball’, along with Frank Holden’s unusual version of Puck as a, ‘heavy, old and tired fairy’ (his words not mine!) but these were inspired choices and added to the natural humour of the play.There was one part of the fairies’ performance which in my mind was unnecessary, being the ‘lullaby’ rap. Sadly in my mind it lowered the professional quality which had otherwise been achieved; however the rest of the audience appeared to be delighted by this addition.

My only real niggle at this performance was the lack of passion between the four lovers. Their sections of the play really lost momentum at times, and I found them somewhat unbelievable in their claims of emotion; considering the nature of their love-triangle plot. However, during the second half of the play this did pick up as the plot thickened, and much comedy was found in the humiliation of Hermia, as both men attempt to win Helena’s heart.

I must make particular mention of the costumes of the show, by Quick Change Costume Design. These really are a spectacular addition to WAC’s debut company profile.

This performance was extremely entertaining, and I have high hopes for the future productions of this company. WAC states their aim is to bring first class theatre to a wider audience, and they are well on their way to achieving this. An outstanding debut production which plays until the end of the month at various venues across Dorset; do go and support them, it really is a treat.

Kate McStraw – Scene One

A Midsummer Night’s Dream comes to Poundbury

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, one of William Shakespeare’s best loved comedies, was the very first production undertaken by the Wessex Actors Company.

Dorset’s newest group of travelling thespians was set up in 2010 by Jo Puttick, with the sole intention of bringing first class theatre to a wider audience. Concentrating mainly on the classics, they are touring open air venues across the county. This independent theatre company uses experienced, local actors, and has the freedom to interpret plays in their own unique way.

On the lawns of Poundbury Farm House a tale of lovers, fairies, and local yokels, unrequited love and turmoil in fairyland was portrayed by a truly talented cast who gave their all and had the audience both laughing and crying in their seats.

Everything from the zany, and somewhat bizarre fairies, to the over-enthusiastic local actors, the hapless Puck, and the star-crossed lovers filled the stage with pure genius, and every character made the role their own.

Pink wheelbarrows, the head of a donkey, a lullaby rap-fashion, spells, potions and action so close to the audience it wound them in, all made an afternoon of excellent entertainment.

It is impossible to single out one performance for particular praise. Frank Holden was a perfect Puck, Dave Clements a brilliant Bottom, and Linsey O’Neill a captivating Titania. But they were all stars, with no one performer outshining any other.

By Anita Harries

Previous WAC productions: A Midsummer Night’s Dream in July 2011 -poster

Cast and Crew

Neil Mathieson – THESEUS, Duke of Athens

Neil-Matheison

Having been ‘third man at back with spear’ for Jo’s Romeo and Juliet, Neil has previous experience at being inept and the weakest link alongside a strong chain of veteran per{ormers. And this year is no exception.

Since Romeo and Juliet Neil has bluffed his way up the theatrical ladder acting and directing lots of stuff, lil

Carole Allen – HIPPOLYTA, Queen of the amazons, betrothed to Theseus

Carole Allen

Carole is delighted to be playing Hippolyta with Wessex Actors Company in this first production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. With a wide ranging experience of acting, including the ritle role in ‘Antigone’, Nora, in ‘The Doll’s – House’, Alithea in ‘The Country Wife’ and Elvira in ‘Blithe Spirit’ as well as major outdoor productions,she s excited by the prospectof bringing Shakespeare to new audiences and in a new and engaging way. Carole was first directed by Jo in Under Milk Wood, playing Lily Smalls, Polly Garter and other characters. Having worked with many other members of the cast either with Brownsea Open Air Theatre or in a number of productions with Castle players, she is enjoying rehearsing with such a friendly and talented cast.

Jeremy Mills – EGEUS, father to Hermia

Jeremy Mills

So you move to a new area, have a third child and then set up a new business all within two years. Then you take on a play by Shakespeare with a group of people you don’t know that runs for a month.

l’m still married!

Madness is a wonderful thing. Thank goodness its been such fun.

Naomi Butchart – HERMIA, in love with Lysander

Naomi Butchart

Naomi has been in many performances since a young age, notably Kelly in ‘Game Plan’ and Jan in ‘Bedroom Farce’ for local dramatic groups.

She also got the opportunity to play many fascinating roles whilst at Winchester University studying drama. She says: ‘This performance has been thoroughly exciting from the beginning. I have had so many new experiences…

Turning orange from a fake tan experiment, an interesting offer of a whirlpool bath! Also the most amazing thing is the support and network of friends thar this company has given me.’

Simon Meredith – LYSANDER, in love with Hermia

Simon Meredith

Simon has been acting locally for many years and became a Drama teacher after completing a Degree in Performing Art. He has worked with our esteemed director a few times over the years playing a nightclub bouncer and several mad Welshmen to name but a few.

Simon is an experienced Shakespearean actor and director, playing parts in Macbeth, The Tempest, Much ado about nothing, Twelfth night and now Midsummers.

He has directed young people in several Shakespeare and Shakespeare themed productions, including the Schools Shakespeare Festival.

He is delighted rto be playing Lysander in rhis production, and is even more delighted to be described as one of the ‘young lovers’ a tag he thought was lost to him some years ago.

He is also very happy to be playing opposite such a lovely bunch of old friends and experienced actors – even if he did teach one of them, which makes him feel old, frankly.

Sam Stevenson – DEMETRIUS, in love with Hermia

Sam Stevenson

Sam has been acting locally for a year since graduating from university last summer and has enjoyed every second.

Throughout the rehearsals Sam feels he has been a lover his parents can be proud of, and feels his inspiring effort and unfathomable ability to please (as well as plenty of sit ups and press ups) makes him such a strong lover.

It has been a brilliant experience and Sam is proud to be part of an excellent group of actors as well as such nice people.

Nicola Dorrell – HELENA, in love with Demetrius

Nicola Dorrell

Nicola started acting for local drama groups in 2005, when she went along to meet members of Castle Players, and since then they haven’t been able to get rid of her.

Since then she has perfomred in 11 shows for them playing a variety of characters from a nun in Nunsense to the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland and most ecently a murderer in “Cat’s Cradle”. Recently she has also tried her hand at directing a one act play which was, thankfully, well received.

Having not performed Shakespeare since school Nicola was very pleased to play minor non-speaking roles in Brownsea Open Air Theatre’s Much Ado About Nothing in 2006 and Taming of the Shrew in 2010. Now though Nicola is very much looking forward to appearing in WACs debut show and stepping forth onto the stage and having something to say – providing she can remember her lines!

Chris Bunn – PETER QUINCE, a carpenter

Chris Bunn

Chris started treading the boards a little later in life than most (around 30) in order to add contrast to his rather dull job as an accoun€nt. Almost immediately he soared to rhe heady heights of playing an Ugly Sister in Cinderella.

Since then he has appeared in several open air Shakespeare productions and many plays and pantos, mostly with the Castle Players.

His favourite production was Second from Last in the Sack Race in which he played 11 different characters which included a parrot and a radio cricket commentator.

Mike Hill – SNUG, a joiner (LION) & COBWEB, a Fairy

Mike Hill

Mike only started this acting nonsense at the age of 50 due to boredom and the lack of ability and energy to play sports. A frustrated tenor (probably not worth a fiver) he’s had the good fortune to play The Pirate King and Sir Joseph Porter in two of Gilbert and Sullivan’s finest.

Acting roles have ranged from a small boy in Blue Remembered Hills, a bully in the Diary of Anne Frank and several fat ladies in Panto, with some serious stuff in between.

Amazed to appear with BOAT for two years, even carried a severed head – mmmn, nice – but never got home before midnight (tough school).

Will consider any role for a pint and a bag of chips.

Dave Clements – BOTTOM, a weaver (PYRAMUS)

Dave Clements

Dave’s performing aspirations first bought critical acclaim at a young & tender age when he played on the linoleum as a child. Unfortunately he had to wait nearly 40 years to realise his theatrical dreams. Work brought him to Poole in the mid 90’s & after 3 years at ” The Stagewise Theatre school for the Performing Arts” ( where he studied drama & singing ) he was let loose on the public in B.O.A.T’s production of “Twelfth Night”, a small part but big enough to convince him this was something he could come to love.

Nearly 40 productions have passed since that first venture and he has enjoyed every one of them. Credits to date include 6 B.O.A.T. appearances (Shakespeare of course), various pantos, dramas & comedies for Castle Players, farces for B.L.T.C. & his favourite role as “Candy” in Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men” for Dramatic Productions at the Lighthouse.

He is proud & privileged to appear in the Wessex Actors Company’s first production. Great play, great cast, wonderful costumes and fantastic rock cakes.

Scott Sullivan – FLUTE, a bellows-mender (THISBE) & MOTH, a Fairy

Scott Sullivan

Scott has been bothering audiences locally for the last 20 years or so.During that time he has played all manner of “Character” roles (largely because he’s too ugly to be cast as a romantic lead). he has been seen on Brownsea Island with the excellent B.O.A.T. Company playing parts like “Clown” in The Winter’s Tale & “Lucio” in Measure for Measure, “Solanio” in Merchant of Venice and “Lennox’, in Macbeth.

More recently he has become a member of Arena Theatre based in Christchurch, his home town being Poole. Performing in Christchurch means that it is very unlikely that he will show himself up on stage in front of anyone he knows.

That said, he has been in some fine productions with Arena: “Willy” in Blue Remembered Hills and “Les” in Bouncers were of particular note (he even managed to get good reviews – much to the surprise of his fellow cast members), he wonders if he can pull off a similar coup in their forthcoming production of The 39 Steps (being performed in November). We’ll just have to wait and see. Mercifully he had avoided being directed by Jo until now. But there’s a first time for everything.

Paul De Burton – SNOUT, a tinker (WALL) & MUSTARDSEED, a Fairy

Paul-de-Burton

Uncle Paul comes from a theatrical family in Manchester. After a spell as a Chief Inspector of police he joined rep in Sr Albans and has performed in the Dream in Stratford and the following year Twelth Night!

Played Widow Twanky in panto in Northampton and sang Opera with the Halle orchestra, a Silurian warrior in Doctor Who. Worked at the Comedy store in London. Featured in ITV’s The Great Pretender! BBC’s “Staff from hell” featured him catching thieves! From Earnest to Three Sisters, Uncle Paul has caused laughter!

A talented after dinner speaker his face is often seen on TV although he has a better face for Radio!

Jon Evans – STARVELING, a tailor (MOON) & PEASEBLOSSOM, a Fairy

Jon-Evans

Jon’s theatrical aspirations were cemented at the tender age of ten when his ambition to play Joseph in the Nativity play was thwarted by the Vicar’s wife who cancelled the event because ‘the children were too naughty!’

Since then he has directed and performed in ‘loadsaplays’. From ‘Vileun the Vile’ and Quasimodo to numerous Shakespeares, he’s even strumed his stuff at The Globe.

His eyebrows went to the same Trichological School as Roger Moore’s and he supports The Scarlets RFC.

Harry Susser – OBERON, King of the Fairies

Harry Susser

Harry is thrilled to be the King of the Fairies for Director Jo Puttick in the premiere season of WAC. Harry most recently trod the boards for Jo as the enjoyably evil King Claudius in “Hamlet” and previously as the slightly misunderstood French Dr Caius in “The Merry Wives of Windsor” for Brownsea Open Air Theatre. Outside of Shakespeare Harry has played the manipulative and malevolent Antonio Salieri in “Amadeus” (in which Linsey, our Titania, was his neglected, patient and silent wife) directed and guided by the most certainly not manipulative or malevolent hands of Jo.

Other Shakespeare roles have included Antonio in “The Merchant of Venice” and Don Pedro – Prince of Arragon in “Much Ado About Nothing”, as King Duncan and The Doctor in “Macbeth” (for the superstitious, “The Scottish Play”) and the Prince in “Romeo and Juliet” with Blade productions.

Harry has also been seen locally in roles where he does not have to pretend to be English, as Adam in Impact Theatre’s production of the psychological thriller “Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me” and various Panto Baddies with Castle Players.

Harry holds a Batchelor of Fine Arts for Acting.

Linsey O’Neill – TITANIA, Queen of the Fairies

Linsey O'Neill

Linsey has been bossed around by Jo since 1985 when she played Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker and is pleased to report that he has mellowed somewhat in the succeeding 26 years!

Having been groped by Dave in The Merry Wives of Windsor for Brownsea Open Air Theatre and Lend Me A Tenor for Castle players she is looking forward
to getting her own back and will enjoy stroking his Bottom!

After what’s been a very difficult year, Linsey says it’s been fantastic to be seeing so much of some of her favourite people and hopes you have as much fun watching as it’s been to rehearse!

Frank Holden – PUCK, or Robin Goodfellow

Frank Holden

When Frank was asked to be one of the cast of this production he immediately thought he would be one of the mechanicals, a bunch of mature, overweight men who can’t act and can’t dance. Then he discovered that Jo had several of those available so what next?

Once he discovered that Jo was looking for a lithe-bodied, young, virile and lively actor to play Puck it became obvious, Jo couldn’t find one so Frank would have to play Ppuck as a heavy, old and tired fairy…..typecasting at it’s most predictable.

Still the rehearsals have been fun and the further motivation of Eve’s (that’s Jo’s wife) straight-from-the-oven rock cakes have kept not only Frank’s more ample figure but aslso his energy levels at their peak. These factors and the chance to work with such lovely and talented people, not a diva amongst them, has made the whole experience a joy.

Director Jo Puttick
Production manager Bridget Clements
Costumes Quick Changes
Choreography Janine Baverstock
Sounds Simon Meredith
Bench Builder Mr R Singleton
Bottoms Head-Cam Supplied By Globe Police
Lovers Swords Made By Cliff Dobson
Website, Publicity, Posters & Programmes Linsey O’Neill
Box office Linsey O’Neill
Photography Linsey O’Neill Design

Thank you to our sponsors – your donations were invaluable in helping us to get this project going:

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If any theatre lovers reading this would like to help this branch of the arts in a small way please contact us via our website or by ringing 07586-860798


Visitor Comments

“Saturday pm at Upton was indeed a Dream. I’ve given up buying programmes but was so intrigued by you all I changed my mind by interval time and how glad I was the info is fascinating.

As to the production…it was a wonderful ensemble piece, the usual difficulties of audibility in an outdoor production were largely overcome (shame about the helicopter!) and the cozzies were breathtaking. I have raised a smile at The Bard but NEVER laughed outland as I did yesterday. Well done, you have 4 new groupies.

On behalf or the Dorset Divas (look us up)”


I just wanted to let you and the whole cast and crew know how much myself and my friends enjoyed the performance on Saturday evening, even the weather surpassed itself! Such a beautiful setting to experience a wonderful play. Many thanks to everyone for making it such fun – we’re all looking forward to next year and hope to have some extra converts for you by then too.

All the very best to you all for your continued success.

Regards,

Helen

Well done Jo, cast and crew. The sweetest of dreams! We came to the performance at Upton House on Saturday evening and enjoyed it immensely. A first rate cast with a rendition of the sad tale of Pyramus and Thisby which I have never seen done better. Or funnier. The setting was perfect too.

Nigel, Winchester


Good morning Jo!!

many many thanks to you and the Company for the terrific performances of the The Dream yesterday.

I really really enjoyed myself last night and so did the Mayor and her Deputy..I really enjoyed the incidental music and its timing; and just loved the ‘group of four’ with their rapping; and the panto with Bottom!!! Great stuff!..and we are really keen to see you perform next year.

As promised, I am checking out availability for the last two weekends of July 2012 in the Brownsword Hall/Pummery Square area for the dates you mentioned and will get back to you very very soon!!

Once again, many many thanks

Fran


Hello everybody,
Don’t need tickets as I caught up with the play at the Poundbury matinee. Just wanted to tell you how much my friend and I enjoyed it and what a great production we thought it was.
I normally detest Shakespeare (Philistine!!) but this was great fun and even the iambic pentameters didn’t bother me (get me!).
Congratulations to everybody – we’re very much looking forward to the Merry Wives. And we loved the Poundbury setting so we hope you’ll be doing it there again next year.

Kind regards
Marjorie Hughes
Bournemouth



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