Midsummer Night's Dream

Presented by Mate Productions
Calderstones Park, Liverpool
11th July 2015

Reviewed by Lynda-Louise Tomlinson

It's a cold Saturday afternoon and Liverpool has been forecast rain, so what better way to spend a few hours than sitting on the grass of Calderstones Park watching an amateur production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, and amateur it was.

The programme tells us that the cast includes "Over 100 local community actors, dancers, musicians, singers, sewers, crafters and volunteers aged 8-80 years", but only Rachael Reason, as Puck, performs of a standard fit for a paying audience.

Having been involved in amateur dramatics myself from an early age, I appreciate how much hard work, time and effort goes into a production, and the programme tells us that the members of Mate Productions "have been working for the past 7 months" on this production. So why, after months of hard work and having already played five shows at Prescot Parish Church Woodland Gardens, are actors still fluffing lines and dancers stepping out of time?

The band, huddled quaintly under an ivy covered canopy, play pleasantly throughout the play. However the Dancing Fairies / Sprites seem to struggle to keep to time and there is an obvious divide throughout the group, as the two at the front are obviously (slightly) more experienced than those at the back, and this is painfully evident when each member is given eight counts to perform solo.

Mate Productions is a Knowsley based community arts organisation led by Artistic Director Gaynor La Rocca. Working in partnership with Shakespeare North and now being based with them in Prescot, they aim to use the mediums of film, dance, storytelling and music to engage with communities and young people across Merseyside.

The Shakespeare North Trust intends to celebrate the Elizabethan heritage of Knowsley by rebuilding The Playhouse in Prescot where, over four hundred years ago was the only purpose built playhouse outside of London.

On arrival to Calderstones Mansion House, there is an air of excitement as the audience settle down to their Prosecco and picnics, the band plays quietly in the corner and the breeze washes through the trees, but come the interval and the sandwich scoffing audience were more entertained by the young girl in the fairy dress who was fearfully watching the character of Bottom from the protective arms of her family.

Francesco La Rocca (a relative of the director) plays the part of Nick Bottom with a thespian campness that even Kenneth Williams would find too over the top, but he is the strongest of the mechanicals, a group of six amateur actors putting on a play, with a final performance almost as flawed as the play it appears in.

A Midsummer Nights Dream is a comedy play by William Shakespeare, following the adventures of four young lovers, the mechanicals and the marriage of the Duke of Athens, Theseus to Hippolyta.

The play is one of Shakespeare's most popular works and is widely performed across the world. Mate Productions with Shakespeare North and RSC Open Stage will be taking their production to the home of Shakespeare, Stratford Upon Avon, next month.

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Sorry Comments Closed

Comment left by yvonne moore on 15th July, 2015 at 21:51
I saw this play at Halewood, you are describing something completely different to what I and my family saw,you are criticising many volunteers who have worked hard alongside their careers for many months, I believe this production was above my expectation of an amateur production, and was much better than the professional actors at the everyman and far more entertaining, one of the highlights being that it was set in woodland areas making it more authentic,perhaps the weather on the day dampened your mood, however, I would expect an experienced reviewer to disregard the environental barriers and appreciate how those "amateur" actors coped on the day given the circumstances... midsummer nights dream, mate productions was excellent and great value for money in my opinion.I see you have only been reviewing for this magazine since June, perhaps I , and my family, regular attendees of theatre may then respect your opinion when you have more experience

Comment left by S. Mite on 15th July, 2015 at 22:25
I saw this same production on the same day as you. I have no idea what show you watched my dear. You sound a little bitter, obviously as you must be new to this kind of job or maybe you just like putting people down who have the nerve to get on stage and have a go. Why would you make cruel remarks about amateurs & children. Being involved in amateur dramatics from an early age, maybe you couldn't quite grasp it yourself? But you're happy to make vile remarks at people who do. Shame on you Ms Tomlinson, My family enjoyed the show very much. Well done Mate productions.

Comment left by Gaynor La Rocca on 16th July, 2015 at 17:43
Again (as you have deleted the comment I posted last night) I am sorry you didn't enjoy the production, however I would urge readers of this very clumsily written and rather spiteful review to check out the rest of the wonderful audience reviews from the same show (including a lovely one from the mother of the child you describe in your chilling and warped review) and also the glowing reviews from Prescot Online and from the British Theatre Guide (on the same day) - you can find them all on our Facebook page @mateliverpool or just search for MATE Productions. It seems to me that you were at an altogether different show (or are trying to make a name for yourself) as the other reviews are all glowing. Indeed the atmosphere on the day was lovely and many of the audience stayed around to chat to us after the show - all of whom were paying punters (unlike you) - and all wanted to tell us how much they loved the production and and many expressed surprise that the actors were not professional, but community actors with incredible talent and immense passion and commitment. The dancers who you crucify with your thoughtless words are children and young people aged 8-17 years who have loved working in partnerships with us. I am stunned at how anyone could be so cruel, not to mention the fact that they danced beautifully. The company is now trying to shield them from ever stumbling across your spiteful review, do you not realise the damage you can do to young people's self esteem? I can see you are very young yourself, and that you have only been a student 'reviewer' for a month, it does not however, excuse such a vicious tongue. If our production was not to your taste fair enough, and I grant you there were a couple of stumbled over lines (a couple only and the actors made it work and did not acknowledge the stumble) - I would say due to the fact that these actors are working folk with other lives and commitments and despite the fact that they had already played to 7 x packed audiences in both Prescot and Halewood, there had been a 2 week gap since they were last together. Despite my acknowledgment of this fact (and bearing in mind that 'professional' actors also fluff lines from time to time) I will not give any credit to your 'opinion' that our production was anything other than excellent and in fact highly professional in every aspect. I am not sure of your motives, but we won't be losing any sleep over your awful review, but perhaps on retrospect, you might.

Comment left by Gaynor La Rocca on 16th July, 2015 at 17:57
A shameful, poorly written and biased review under the brand of a student magazine that describes its mission as 'promoting grassroots arts and culture on Merseyside'.