Along with the invitation to renew the annual subscription from the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh this year, came an invitation to join Mark Thomson for a glass of wine and informal chat in the stalls. I’m up for that.

So were several others. A cheery group of annual subscribers gathered and, while one man said he’d been a subscriber for around twenty years, we generally avoided any competition over that.

Me? Well, it’s continuous since 1983, as you ask.

Mark sensibly got the gripes out of the way early. We did not enjoy Guid Sisters – possibly one exception. It was nominated for an award as were six of last year’s seven productions. Personally, Guid sisters is the closest I’ve come to leaving a Lyceum production before the end. Why could one lady not see all the action in Doll’s House. Theatre was written for performance centre stage. I suppose that’s the declamatory style much favoured in the nineteenth century. Now, directors want folk to move. So what’s the defence? Theatre design and, by the way, if you want to watch square on there’s always the tv. This actually chimes with something I heard from the head manager at the EFT: not everyone wants a seat where they can read the super-titles.

Praises: a lady from the Borders is so pleased that the theatre does matinées as it enables her to get home afterwards. Taking Over the Asylum was universally enjoyed.

There’s no Shakespeare next year because there’s no place one would fit the overall arc of productions. Fair enough. And Edinburgh audiences don’t necessarily come out for Shakespeare.

The Young Lyceum will be in performance in July. A version of A Christmas Carol will be this year’s Christmas Show, with some music and suitable for all ages.

How are the actors chosen? Best person for the part, although some will always find a home.

I missed the end as I had another engagement, but it was a good exercise and one I hope they might repeat.

Royal Lyceum’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream

A Midsummer Night’s Dream has to be one of life’s most enriching theatrical experiences. Even when the Director, Matthew Lenton, sets it in mid-winter, Shakespeare’s language still has the power to charm, excite, soothe – when one can hear it. A few folk in the bar at the interval were expressing difficulty catching the words of the female actors. Something of a contrast to the over-loud Guid Sisters.

The counter-indicative weather did nothing for me. I really want my Midsummer Night to be warm and filled with the buzz of wings, whether of fairies or bees. I found it just too incredible that everyone would go off into the woods in swirling snow. However, what the cast then did with the physical theatre of being out in the cold was at times very funny. Miles Yekinni and Kevin Mains as Midsummer Night’s Demetrius and Lysander were hilariously intertwined in a hopeless wrestling match that threatened to stop the performance.

Ifan Meredith gave a somewhat emasculated performance as Oberon/Theseus. I wanted more – more authority, more gravitas and, as Oberon, more sinister. Jordan Young, on the other hand, was having a ball playing Bottom and we enjoyed that. Maybe Pyramus and Thisbe slid over into excess, but Barnaby Power was a splendid Peter Quince and the Mechanicals were a deserved highlight.

I’ve seen many, many productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This wasn’t the best, but a good night out and great to see the members of the Young Lyceum getting a chance on stage.

Johnny McKnight’s Cinderella is up next at the Royal Lyceum. Starts 29th November.


Midsummer Night’s Dream (As You Like It)

A Chekov International Theatre Festival/Dmitry Krymov’s Laboratory/School of Dramatic Art Theatre Production. Part of World Shakespeare Festival 2012

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is one of my all time favourite plays, but having said that, I know it’s because of the sheer inventiveness it encourages. Directors, choreographers, musicians and actors have a wonderful time performing a play that’s loosely based on what the author, William Shakespeare, wrote.

At the King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, Dmitry Krymov’s production, missing out almost all of the Midsummer Night’s Dream script, was looser than most. As my companion pointed out the director, Dmitry Krymov, was first a set designer – and didn’t it show?

The production concentrates on the mechanicals play, Pyramus and Thisbe. It starts with the cast of mechanicals in the audience trying to bring on their set of branches. Front row seats, end of row seats can see you joining the cast without either audition or equity card. Then they get themselves onto the stage and we catch our first view of Venya the Jack Russell. Venya proved very popular with the audience and the man behind me gave his wife a running commentary of what the dog was thinking – clever that!

Next the audience within the play arrives and seats themselves around the front of the stage and in the boxes. Much slapstick humour follows as they break flimsy barriers and inadvertantly throw rubbish over each other. Their running commentary is full of humour and spot on one liners. (I wonder if the man behind me was the writer?)

A Midsummer Night’s Dream lends itself to pantomime and circus skills and the cast were great. Acrobatics abounded and the way they manoeuvred the giant puppets of Pyramus and Thisbe jaw-droppingly accurate. Traditional acting wasn’t neglected, however, and the new play had a believable inner tension. There were three lovely voices, some instrumental work and the final effect of the dance.

I didn’t expect the dance of the swans, but it was just right.

I counted around 40 performers on stage for the final bow, every one a winner. Oh, and my companion appreciated the question and answer piece in the  programme. Nothing like a bit of de-mystification to help one appreciate what’s going on.