One summer we were asked by a church warden of one of the villages controlled by the vicar of Ripple, Strensham, Earls Croome and Hill Croome to perform ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ as part of a churches festival, out-of-doors at Ripple Court. We accepted and I was asked to direct. It was at once evident that we could not raise a cast suitable, or indeed large enough for a full production so I truncated it severely, leaving out the lovers and the Theseus scenes; only the fairy and rude mechanicals scenes were used.Geoff Guy, Director and Script Editor
I had to meet the festival organiser and his helpers to discuss rehearsals, access etc. at the home of one of them. It was at a house in what were, I think, the stables and coach-house of the demolished Strensham Court. A very select and secret development – so select that the meeting was interrupted by an angry resident objecting strongly to the presence of ‘strange’ cars on the drive. Apparently they all lived in splendid isolation, meeting only each other for coffee etc.
The Ripple Hall production was at the lower end of a long wide lawn in front of the house. It wasn’t ideal; there was no ‘backdrop’ of trees, bushes or plants, only a ‘side entrance’ from a shaded path. Ripple parishioners were not much in evidence as an audience, which numbered abort fifty. The performance was in afternoon sunlight so the ‘midsummer night’ atmosphere was non-existent. Pat Davis, in the absence of a suitable male, was an unconvincing Oberon. On the plus side we had a very good Puck – a young woman whose name eludes me – and a small choir, assembled by Peter and Ann Brown from the Choral Society and clad in cloaks and cowls, who sang two songs; ‘Ye Spotted Snakes’ was good. The audience was further away from the stage than I wanted- moved, I gathered, by the audience themselves, not wishing to participate in any way. We had to shout very loudly, often when on the move, which was tiring.
We later performed it more effectively at Mitton Manor in the evening. Puck’s closing speech – ‘Now the hungry lion roars’ etc. with a light on her in the dusk, was very successful. But on the whole, I think Shakespeare out-of-doors – unless there’s lot of lighting and very good projection and diction, not a good idea.