Tag Archives: Daniel Hall


A Midsummer Night’s Dream


Roman Theatre of Verulamium


A Midsummer Night’s Dream

 OVO at the Roman Theatre of Verulamium

Reviewed – 26th May 2022



“It isn’t strictly Shakespeare but it’s a fine evening’s entertainment”


The English summer outdoor theatrical season is amongst us and there can be few sites more delightful for enjoying an evening’s entertainment than the Roman Theatre of Verulamium (St Albans). The stage is beautifully lit (Mattis Larsen) in reds and blues as the evening draws in, and head mics are worn by all performers (sound by Michael Bird) that removes the necessary but sometimes irritating shoutiness of outdoor projection. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is, for obvious reasons, a summer favourite and there is a huge amount of fun to be had in this production directed by Adam Nichols and Matt Strachan – including an opportunity for a legitimate stage invasion – but this is not one for a Shakespeare purist. With a large percentage of the original dialogue paraphrased into modern(-ish) language, and much of the plot condensed and developed, it is surprising that there is no ‘adapted by’ credit which is surely merited.

The action is initially set within the confines of a Blackburn working man’s club of the 1970s, with references to closing mills and striking miners, and with the locals sporting dodgy facial hair and Lancashire accents to reinforce the period feel. The style of the production is set as Lysander serenades Hermia with some verses of the Bay City Rollers’ hit Bye, Bye Baby and the audience is encouraged to join in. The dialogue, mixing the Shakespearean with the vernacular, goes along the lines of, “Stand forth Demetrius, cum ‘ere lad”.

A gender-ambiguous Puck (Guido Garcia Lueches) is barely dressed in a low-cut singlet, the shortest of shorts and the highest of platform boots (Costumes Emma Lyth) – half Eurovision, half Eurotrash. Leaving the club singing Abba’s Gimme Gimme Gimme (A Man after Midnight), Puck draws the locals into an imaginary Disco Land where the fairy magic is to take place. Verses of pop song are interspersed with spoken Shakespearean text whilst the would-be young lovers show us their moves (Choreography Sundeep Saini).

Lyle Fulton plays a rather pathetic but ultimately endearing Lysander who with a guitar in hand and a song for every occasion wins us over by his appealing nature. Emilia Harrild is a feisty Hermia – little but fierce – who endures the worst insult when described as a “Yorkshire teabag”. Charlie Clee plays Demetrius inexplicably as a sullen and rather unattractive suitor; an approach which is explained by a striking late plot twist. Eloise Westwood as the naive Helena provides the performance of the evening. Even before her moving last solo song, her star quality shines out amidst the pantomime going on around her.

In the traditional manner, the roles of Theseus (Ben Whitehead) and Hippolyta (Emma Wright) are doubled with those of Oberon and Titania. Emma Wright shows her stage versatility with an impressive transformation from down-trodden housewife to spectacular dancing queen. I can’t relax into Oberon’s “luurrv” style of delivery but many around me enjoy his fairy meddling, “Get ready to party, and don’t Puck it up”.

In the most radical change of the production, the hempen homespun have ambitions to become a pop band rather than to stage a play, so Pyramus and Thisbe does not get an airing. They are transformed into disco fairies and Bottom (Daniel Hall) becomes a Saturday Night Fever dance icon (white suit, gold medallion, black quiff) rather than the traditional ass.

In the final scene, back in the club, the band The Mechanicals perform a non-stop 70s megamix medley (Musical Director Tom Cagnoni) and the full cast dance out the night. It isn’t strictly Shakespeare but it’s a fine evening’s entertainment in the open air.


Reviewed by Phillip Money

Photography by Elliott Franks


A Midsummer Night’s Dream

 OVO at the Roman Theatre of Verulamium until 11th June


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Vinegar Tom | ★★★ | October 2021
Hedda Gabler | ★★★ | November 2021


Click here to see our most recent reviews


Review of The Importance of Being Earnest – 3.5 Stars


The Importance of Being Earnest

Jack Studio Theatre

Reviewed – 16th November 2017

★★★ ½

“fast, furious, and sophisticated; littered with delightful bunburying and Wilde’s beloved familiar quotes”


I decided years ago that the great thing about ‘The Importance Of Being Earnest’ is that it is difficult to over-act Wilde’s indignant characters in this play; they are all larger than life. Yet while it revels in stereotypes, the twists and turns we are taken through are not entirely predictable as they lead us to a wonderfully implausible conclusion!


The plot is deceptively simple: a man wishes to marry a woman. But the path to true love raises a few issues along the way like fake identities and disapproving families. These issues lead to more issues, which uncover further issues … which tangle issues even more.

From the start I loved the black and white set, a great backdrop allowing the hugely colourful characters to take centre stage. It was altered just the once to move the action from inside to out, meaning the entire play rested on the performance and the script.

The cast managed to balance the absurdity of the unfolding farce with clarity and what seemed like ease as the play rapidly progressed. The physical comedy required was dependent on expression and small movement, even occasional stillness, to heighten the constant quick witted dialogue full of wit and wisdom. The script was fast, furious, and sophisticated; littered with delightful bunburying and Wilde’s beloved familiar quotes, and delivered beautifully and comically by all on stage.

Both Daniel Hall and Riley Jones (as Algy/Ernest and John/Ernest) confidently trade raised eyebrows, cutting insults and quips like old adversaries. The ladies they fall in love with, Gwendolen and Cecily (played by Sophie Mercell and Emily-Rose Clarkson), sparkle in repartee with their beloved young men, and in both their burgeoning friendship and barely veiled animosity for each other. The dominating Lady Bracknell (played by Harriet Earle) was withering in tone and gaze, while the sneakily pivotal Miss Prism (Kate Sanderson) and bumbling Dr Chasuble (Scott Barclay) were amusingly simpering. Finally, The Butler, played brilliantly by Daniel Desiano-Plummer, as two separate servants at two separate locations, was understated and a constant source of amusement with muted actions in the background often creating distracting laugh out loud moments

Collectively the cast moved fluidly in action and prose, glossing over a couple of tiny script stumbles and a minor injury very professionally. The audience was constantly laughing, from giggles to guffaws. It seemed to me that the actors grew in confidence as the show unfolded and they settled into the pace. The production was good to start with and strengthened gloriously as the story unfolded. I left with the sound of laughter ringing in my ears and a smile on my face.



Reviewed by Joanna Hinson

Photography by www.everlockproductions.com




is at the Jack Studio Theatre until 2nd December



Click here to see a list of the latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com