Shakespeare is un-Masked in Peterborough Cathedral’s grounds

Oberon and Puck from Mask Theatre's A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Oberon and Puck from Mask Theatre's A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Purists, look away now. This is Shakespeare but not as you know it.

The Bard’s works have always been open to interpretation, of course, but with A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Peterborough Mask Theatre did it, well, the Mask way, and outdoors in the cathedral grounds.

Yes, the character list looks familiar, the language is there and the general premise of the story (love, loyalty and fairies) remains, as does the humour, lots of it.

But that’s where it ends as director Tom Fox mixes it up and throws in heaps of silliness, striking costumes and make-up, not to mention two shades-wearing, suited security guards, which all goes a long way towards making Shakespeare’s plays sometimes perceives as stuffy or awkward hopefully more accessible.

There were strong performances right across the cast.

Phil Lewis gave Theseus, The Duke, a presidential air... that president being Trump - cue references to fake news and building a bigger wall!

Carl Perkins had a real presence as King of the Fairies Oberon, commanding the “stage” (mostly grass of course) with great delivery; his opening scene with his Queen Titania - another stand-out performer Estella Todisco - was a highlight of the night. So too Titania’s amorous advances to a by-then ass-headed and rather baffled Bottom (Catherine Myland).

Myland was inspired as the Athenian actor rehearsing a play for the duke’s party caught up in all the crazy goings-on.

Much of that madness was down to the meddlesome fairy Puck - an energetic and entertaining performance from Becky Owen-Fisher.

Upstage the whole time were the Peterborough indie-alternative gypsy swing band Opaque who blended in beautifully and added to the atmosphere in a magical setting in the Bishop’s Gardens.

They opened the piece and fittingly closed it in rip-roaring fashion.

You can see A Midsummer Night’s dream tonight (Friday) and Saturday. More at www.masktheatre.co.uk