Despite living in Chandler’s Ford for over 20 years, this was the first time I had managed to get to one of the Chameleons’ productions. Many thanks to Lionel Elliot for supplying director’s notes, the cast list and some of the images of the show (which were taken by Dave Wilkins).
Thanks also to Janet Williams for supplying some of the other images and for suggesting I come along in the first place!
The Pocket Dream is a wonderful send up of bad acting, theatrical tantrums, scenery falling down and so on as the cast attempt to stage Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
It is laugh out loud funny and I found it impossible to pick out one particularly great moment. I was concentrating hard to make sure I didn’t miss one single laugh (you’ll be glad to know I didn’t!). And there were lots of laughs.
The Pocket Dream features lovers, rude mechanicals (!) and fairies. This unusual mix is shaken about and gives a show of great surprises.
Matthew Meehan, the director, reveals that this production was born backstage during a performance of Dracula.
“During the interval I was handed the script by Sheila Hardiman as something we could possibly put on. I’d like to think the last play I directed for the Chameleons [Chinamen by Micheal Frayn) went down quite well and I was itching to get the chance to do it again.
For me reading plays is all about instinct, I usually know if it will work within the first few pages. I am happy to say that this play conﬁrmed my initial feelings providing plenty of opportunities for laughs and gentle anarchy.
I had actually been pestering The Chameleons committee for some time about doing a Shakespeare and this seemed to be a good compromise being as it is not only a retelling of A Midsummer Night‘s Dream but also a comedy about the silly world that actors often get caught up in.
We have had to make a few script changes to allow for our small stage but what you see tonight is a brilliant mix of Farce, Satire and a hint of Romance.
What more could you ask for? We hope you enjoy the show as much as we have enjoyed putting it together. Now it’s just up to you to sit back and enjoy!”
I did sit back and I did enjoy it. The Ritchie Hall was packed and the most constant sound was laughter.
I don’t know about anyone else who was there but having seen this play, I left feeling considerably “bucked up” (to quote P.G. Wodehouse, that wonderful humorist, though this is one of those sentences where it is crucial to have accurate typing! Stop it! I was thinking of “mucked up”, so there!).
It was the stage equivalent of a much needed tonic! Given my recent CFT posts have been about scams (useful but necessary information), it is lovely to write a lighter piece and combine it with a review. I needed a writing tonic!
I should imagine learning lines is the bugbear for actors. The great thing with writing is generally you don’t have to memorise it. Create it, edit it, yes but commit it all to memory, thankfully no. (Can you imagine the likes of Hilary Mantel with her huge books committing all of that to memory?!).
So I admire actors in general terms for acting ability and for this capacity to learn lines (though the play did send up this aspect too). I thought the acting for The Pocket Dream was great. A sign of a good book, film, play or what have you is when you get swept up in its created world for however long it takes you to read the book, watch the play or whatever. This version of The Pocket Dream easily did that for me.
“Who Wants to be a Millionaire?”
One of my favourite moments was when a bet was won leading to a rousing rendition of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire”. I should add it was also the first time I’d seen fairies wearing bowler hats (albeit gold ones!).
Another great moment was on seeing what Oberon considered to be a monster. I think this hugely unfair on donkeys incidentally.
Throughout the show I loved the comments from the actors of “get off” etc when another member of the cast showed their “affection” for them (as part of the role I hasten to add!). It was things like this, throughout the play, that reminded me this is a play going wrong. The great irony of course is the play was performed to perfection and had to be for it to work.
A great ensemble piece
I can’t pick out any one performance as I thought the entire cast were great and for a play like this that is essential. The humour comes from the cast getting it wrong/having things not supposed to happen and one incident feeds off another and so on. Very much an ensemble piece (and the best comedies, whatever the medium, usually are ensemble works. I would mention Round the Horne, Porridge, Fawlty Towers and so on as other examples of that).
I love fairytale fiction and indeed write it myself so I guess if there was a play I would be pre-disposed to like it would be A Midsummer Night’s Dream and anything based on it like The Pocket Dream.
I’ve never seen fairies as “twee” and “just for kids’ stories” or anything like that and it is clear neither did Shakespeare. (Another reason to like the great man!).
The cast list for The Pocket Dream is:
Simon … Geoff Dodsworth
Felix … Nick Coleman
Jo … Sian Hayden
Phyllida … Cari Laythorpe
Davina … Kayleigh Fagence
Tom … Paul Jones
Fairy … Claire Sykes
Fairy … Fiona Winchester
The Behind the Scenes people are:
Assistant Director … Jennifer Prior
Backstage … Liz Strevens, Matt Costen
Tech. Team Leader … Lionel Elliott
Sound … Ben Williams
Lighting … Rebecca Nye
Wardrobe & Choreography … Diana Mills
House Manager … Sheila Hardiman
The basic plot of Shakespeare’s play is that on a midsummer’s night, four young lovers find themselves in an enchanted forest where fairies rule. While a feuding Fairy King and Queen (Oberon and Titiana) are at war, their paths are crossed by Bottom, Quince and their friends presenting a play within a play.
Chief mischief-maker Puck is on-hand to ensure that the course of true love is anything but smooth, and games of fantasy, love and dreams ensue in Shakespeare’s most beguiling comedy. And Bottom gets an unforgettable “make over”. Talk about making an ass of yourself…
The Pocket Dream combines Shakespeare’s work with the story of the production of the play going horribly wrong. And The Pocket Dream can be adapted for where it is being staged.
Apparently some of the actors due to appear with the Chameleons had run off to spend the night in The Monk’s Brook! Everything that could go wrong with a production is sent up beautifully in this play.
Shakespeare – A Midsummer Night’s Dream
It is thought A Midsummer Night’s Dream was written by the Bard between 1590 and 1597. Shakespeare’s play is a series of plays within the overall structure and The Pocket Dream adds the story of the production going wrong on top of that.
It is a truism in writing that when an author tries to claim something was just a dream it is a cliche. It wasn’t when Shakespeare came up with it given this is how the play ends with Puck suggesting directly to the audience that what they have just seen was a dream.
(In fairness it wasn’t a cliche for Lewis Carroll either with Alice in Wonderland but the idea of something just being a dream has been overused since then, most infamously by the TV show Dallas, so this kind of ending for a story has fallen into disrepute and is generally avoided.
It was nice to see the “it was all a dream” idea as it would have first been used in Jacobean England. I’m sure it would have been a refreshing twist to the audiences at that time. From my viewpoint as a writer it was interesting to see the concept being used “historically”).
The first performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream was in front of King James VI/I at Court in January 1605. King James, like his illustrous predecessor, Queen Elizabeth, loved masques and plays so Shakespeare’s fortunes did not wane with the death of his former royal patron. This is just as well given many of his works might then not have been put on at all and it really would have been our loss.
Shakespeare’s work, of course, is ideally suited for the stage, as he planned, but has been adapted for radio, television and so on, mediums he could not have imagined. He would have imagined the spoof though and The Pocket Dream is a great example of that genre.
I can’t tell you how often I’ve walked past the Ritchie Memorial Hall and the sign for the Chameleon Theatre Group over the years but am glad to have “broken my duck” to see one of their productions. I very much hope to attend more in the future.
I was impressed too at how much was conveyed on what is a very small stage! This really struck me as The Pocket Dream is not a strictly linear play – first A happened, then B etc. There were jumps of scene from Midsummer as it was meant to be performed, back to it all going wrong, back to Midsummer again and so forth.
It can’t be the easiest of productions to actually produce. The trouble with showing something going wrong is it would be far too easy for it to really go wrong. Rapid changes of costume were handled well too (and I can only imagine there can’t have been that much room round the back either!).
Given it is not a straight plot, so to speak, I felt the whole story worked well though it was crucial to pay attention to avoid missing anything. There were some subtle asides which could have been overlooked otherwise.
Oh and just to add to my evening, I won a scarf holder in the raffle. The Chameleons hold raffles to raise funds for their chosen charity, which for 2016 is Chandler’s Ford Good Neighbours, a very worthy cause.
Well done all, both on the stage and off it. It was a great evening and performance.
Read blog posts by Allison Symes published on Chandler’s Ford Today.
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