That MATE Productions saw fit to stage its final performance of its three month tour of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the grounds of a Netherley nursing home tells you a lot about the company. The Knowsley-based community group is a close-knit one, and it’s this genuine friendship and passion that shows through in their work time after time. In this instance, the venue had been suggested by company actress Kirsty Taylor, who works at Woodlands Rest Home. It followed a successful season of shows in the woods in Prescot – the new home of the company and its production partners Shakespeare North – and in Stratford as part of the RSC’s Open Stages project.
Unlike the Everyman’s modern take on the Bard’s most-loved comedy earlier in the year, MATE played things the traditional way and was all the more charming for it. Director Gaynor La Rocca was not afraid to include the odd comic ad lib, which worked well, and the cast was largely adept in playing for big laughs. Shakespeare’s tale of meddling fairies, romantic misunderstandings, and the am dram stylings of the Rude Mechanicals is a crowd-pleaser, and an ever-popular choice for an outdoor show. The MATE treatment brought together the company’s inclusive and friendly ethos to great effect.
Francesco La Rocca’s Nick Bottom was loveable and camp and a natural focus for the action; and the four lovers – Helena (Kirsty Taylor), Demetrius (Craig Sharkey), Hermia (Robyn La Rocca) and Lysander (Carl James Fowler) had a solid chemistry that was great fun to watch. Fowler and Taylor’s cartoonish blusters were among the highlights of the show.
Joan Crail’s costumes were very impressive too, giving a distinctive style to the production; Bottom’s transformation into an ass worked well, and Puck’s (Rachel Reason) punky look illustrated the character’s mischevous nature. A live folk soundtrack accompanied the action and worked perfectly in the open air environment.
The project was clearly a big undertaking for the company, but was realised with dedication and aplomb. MATE’s incredible efforts and commitment to team working shone through in this delightful production.