There exists in Waterford a practice by professional and non-professional arts practitioners to work together without being fixated on who is the professional and who is the volunteer. Red Kettle maximised on this collaborative tendency and responded to the current financial climate (being felt particularly keenly in the city with the closure of Waterford Crystal) with their production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
The show was advertised as an “epic production”, enlisted a cast of forty seven cast members (and a dog) and was performed in a circus tent adjacent to the People’s Park in the city. Members of Waterford Youth Arts, WYD Moves and Little Red Kettle worked with agility, ability and concentration alongside a professional cast and crew to create a production that was stylish, entertaining and uplifting.
Ben Hennessey designed a set that was sumptuous in colour and texture with an apron stage positioned in front of a walk way that zig zagged up three levels. Libby Seward’s choreography created fluid movement within and between scenes and provided a sustained and controlled energy within a production in which the cast had a lot of physical space to fill.
Conor Nolan’s lighting design could have taken the size and scale of the venue into greater account. The lower stage area was well lit and much attention was paid to the detail of the lighting upon and within the set, which created a sense of colour and magic that was in keeping with the overall design and direction of the production. However, the elevated parts of the set were often poorly lit and at times this compromised the effectiveness of performers such as Eoin Lynch playing Oberon and Freddie Quinlan playing Puck.
Margaret O’Mahoney assembled an array of costumes that maximised the visual effect of the production with the diaphanous fairies contrasting nicely with the rough cloth of the 1950’s working men’s suits worn by the mechanicals and the velvet costumes and coat tails of the Athenian court. If one was not quite sure as to the time period of the play, this mattered little as the emphasis throughout the production was on creating a sense of otherworldliness.
The musical score, created by Joe Harney, resonated with bells, acoustic guitar and harmonica, adding atmosphere and underlining the energy that characterised the production. Jim Nolan’s work as text director led to a generally confident delivery of the text. The professional actors captured the rhythm, articulation and meaning of the text well while the non-professional supporting cast, though less confident at times, conveyed the sense and often the nuance within the language.
The production would have benefitted with another week in rehearsal to get all the technical aspects corrected but Red Kettle’s ambition to create a production for and by the people of Waterford was successful and brim full of energy, humour and resourcefulness.
Dr Úna Kealy is a lecturer in the Department of Creative & Performing Arts, WIT.