Review: Open-air play at Bolsover Castle goes like a dream

A Midsummer Night's Dream performed by chapterhouse Theatre Company at Bolsover Castle
A Midsummer Night's Dream performed by chapterhouse Theatre Company at Bolsover Castle

One balmy evening picnic lovers set out their feasts and poured their wine to sit and enjoy some open air theatre within the walled garden at Bolsover Castle.

Chapterhouse Theatre Company joined us with their magnificent yet modest stage set, and whisked us to Athens to witness the events leading up to the wedding of the Duke of Athens in the popular Shakespearean comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

The story unfolds as Hermia dotes on her true love Lysander, but is being made to marry Demetrius by her father. Athenian law states that she must do as her father says or face serious consequences so she escapes to the forest with Lysander. Hermia confides in her best friend Helena and reveals her plans, but Helena who is desperately in love with Demetrius, reveals the secret to him in hope of gaining his respect and love, but instead he heads to the forest himself to stop them.

As all this is happening, the King and Queen of the fairies are also at loggerheads. The King, Oberon, plots to use a magical flower to trick the Queen into falling in love with the first creature she sets eyes on as she awakes, which happened to be a amateur actor, Bottom, who was turned into a donkey by a mischievous fairy, Puck.

Oberon also sees the young couple’s dilemmas in the forest and decides to send his trusty servant, Puck, to use the same charms on Demetrius so he falls in love with Helena because she is so in love with him, but a case of mistaken identity confuses the plot as Lysander is the one enchanted by Helena.

The cast of just six managed to act out all 21 parts with such ease. They were suitably animated and their voices well projected to compensate for the outdoor arena we were in. Puck played by Benjamin Darlington was perfectly portrayed as an energetic mischief maker. His facial expressions were captivating and his use of the stage made his monologues arresting. Chris Upton played the humorous Bottom with ease, and Claire Chard’s convincing performance of Helena made me cringe as she chased after attention from Demetrius but I felt her confusion once he finally doted on her.

I have seen Chapterhouse perform in the past so my expectations were high for their return to north Derbyshire. I hoped they would be able to pull off this Shakespeare favourite and they did so, with flying colours.

Bolsover Castle was a perfect setting and I look forward to the company’s next production ‘The Wind in the Willows’ at the castle in September.