Jul 10 2008

Midsummer Dreaming

The sun is shining down in that funny, crystal clear, July- watery sort of way. The sky glows an infinitive iridescent turquoise, crowded with outrageously unreal puffy clouds. Great blobs of soft white meringue race across blue emptiness. Dragon flies and glimmering damsels hover over the crispy white cups of water lilies on the pond. The wind stirs up the scent of roses hurling their petals into the air. Sheep and cows stand out like little plastic farmyard toys dotted across the hillside and the trees, silhouetted on the hilltops, surely belong to Hornby. Of course it is all too good to be true. Perfect visibility means rain, more rain, horizontal rain, sideways rain, rain, rain, rain.
It rained on midsummer evening as Titania and Oberon railed at each other over possession of the Changeling child, as Lysander and Demetrius, Helena and Hermia fell under Puck’s impish spell. It continued to rain as the lover’s confusion grew. It rained as the men drew their swords and Hermia and Helena ranted wildly at each other exchanging insults.
It rained as the Mechanicals planned the performance of their “lamentable Comedy” of Pyramus and Thisby for the Duke and Duchess. Alas, as they rehearsed with damp gusto, hoping nervously for riches rather than the gallows, Puck was still up to no good. Bottom found himself rudely “translated” into an Ass. Titania, drugged too, by a magic potion, slept wetly in her bower, only to wake and fall hopelessly in love with this slightly soggy Ass. Fairies danced lightly in the raindrops, fairy lights twinkled through the trees glistening on the pond. Puck glowed greenly from his secret tree watching his mischief unfold. And still it rained.

It continued to rain until Oberon stepped in and made Puck undo his mischief and restore order and love. It rained as the grand Duke Theseus and his Duchess arrived for their wedding feast. It rained as the Mechanicals clumsily unfolded their impossible farce.

And we had a huge audience. We did! For both performances the beautiful terraced garden filled with umbrellas, oilskins, tarpaulins, damp, smoked salmon sandwiches, slippery bottles of watery wine, laughter and love.
“Surely they’ll go home in the interval” we waterlogged thespians asked as we tipped toed from our polytunnel dressing room. “They won’t stay to the end, will they?” we looked at each other astonished……and they did. They gave us a standing ovation after both performances, and we, the cast, applauded them. It was truly magical!

Fireworks cracked through the night air, music filled the dripping sky. Only in Britain, we laughed, only in Britain could we be so triumphantly daft and carry on with such huge success, in the pouring rain. Somehow the adrenalin cut in even more than usual!

Phone calls and e mails followed. How had we done it? How come it was so professional? Where all the actors really just amateurs? “ I saw a production in Regents Park and yours was better!” “Really?” “Yes, really!”

But then of course, we live in this funny corner of the world where people appear from nowhere to lend their professional technical skill: “Oh, by the way, I do/did that for a living. Can I help” It happened over and over again until we had the most extra ordinary team to bring this dream of the Dream to life. It really was one of the happiest and most fun things I have done for a very long time. Extraordinary!

Oh, and it’s still raining!

Sometimes I’m asked if I really live such an idyllic life in idyllic surroundings. Well yes in a way I suppose I do. …… except for the normal grind of everyday life; oil costs rising, war, famine, knife crime, bad news in every newspaper, doom and gloom on all broadcasting channels. Downturn, recession, sub-prime disaster, food crisis, property crisis, political crisis, world crisis….

Yes, I do live in the real world but I also live in a beautiful part of the real world. It is that which I try to celebrate and to share. I do realise how fortunate I am to have the opportunity to find a certain peace and tranquillity sometimes among the quiet of the fields and the peacefulness of the animals but I am not smug as one erstwhile reader sadly remarked; I am not even lucky, I just am. I live a quiet life, mostly in the rain, which so many would find extremely dull and boring. I value it. I love it.

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