Excellent reviews for Scottish Opera's A Midsummer Night's Dream, featuring Stuart Stratford, David Shipley, Elgan Llŷr Thomas, Dingle Yandell and Glen Cunningham

24 February 2022

On 22 February, Scottish Opera opened Dominic Hill’s new production of Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. After the originally scheduled premiere in March 2020 was cancelled due to lockdown, the production finally opened triumphantly almost two years later with no fewer than five Rayfield Allied artists in the cast and production team: Scottish Opera’s Music Director Stuart Stratford conducting, bass David Shipley as Bottom, tenor Elgan Llŷr Thomas as Lysander, bass-baritone Dingle Yandell as Snug, and Scottish Opera Emerging Artist tenor Glen Cunningham as Flute.

The production has been enthusiastically received by critics, with excellent reviews for all Rayfield Allied artists:

“However good the individual elements, it is their organic amalgamation under Hill’s surefooted direction and Stratford’s precise yet visionary conducting that gives the entire show a sense of everyone and everything working together. The result has the makings of a Scottish Opera classic.”
“Led by David Shipley’s vividly sung and expertly crafted Bottom, the theatrical amateurs don’t miss a trick.”
“Jonathan McGovern’s forthright Demetrius, Charlie Drummond’s determined Helena, Lea Shaw’s vulnerable Hermia and Elgan Llŷr Thomas’ bold Lysander each make a clear impact as a distinctive entity while communally charting their absurdly convoluted emotional round-dance with conviction as well as neatness.”
George Hall, The Stage *****
“Vibrantly sung, David Shipley’s Bottom crafted his role superbly, dominating the amateur theatrical group and with his ass’s head, seriously amusing as Tytania’s mistaken love.”
“The ensemble of Glen Cunningham’s Flute, Dingle Yandell’s Snug, Arthur Bruce’s Starveling and Jamie MacDougal’s hip-flasked Snout drew plenty of laughter from the audience.”
“The Athenians were vocally well balanced but with strong individual characters. Elgan Llŷr Thomas was an intrepid Lysander opposite Charlie Drummond's strongminded Helena.”
“In the pit, Stuart Stratford began so quietly I almost missed the opening glissandos, but he went on to draw wonderful contrasts from his players. Completely at one with the singers, he clearly relished Britten’s challenging mercurial music – by turns moodily ethereal, regal and playful. The sheer energy emerging from the performance was due to the brilliant ensemble work right across the piece.”
David Smythe, Bachtrack *****
“…the mechanicals are a hilarious, motley team, their eventual “play within a play” a perfectly-timed comedy, with David Shipley’s Bottom a shining lead.”
“Stuart Stratford’s musical direction reaps a robust orchestral performance…”
“The quartet of confused lovers is mesmerisingly agile: Elgan Llŷr Thomas (something of a Hugh Grant lookalike) as a quicksilver Lysander…”
Ken Walton, The Scotsman *****
“…Nick Bottom, a spectacular tour-de-force by David Shipley who dominates his every scene with total clarity.”
“Here, in the wide-open spaces of the Theatre Royal pit, under excellent conductor Stuart Stratford, the orchestral sounds blossom atmospherically, especially the chiming percussion and the slumbering, sliding strings.”
“Perhaps it’s true that the music for the four mixed-up lovers is less striking than the rest but as Hermia and Helena, Lea Shaw and Charlie Drummond project it strongly, as do Lysander and Demetrius (Elgan Llŷr Thomas and Jonathan McGovern)…”
Nicholas Kenyon, The Telegraph ****
“Highest praise for the slimmed-down orchestra, though, who relish all the soloistic brilliance that Britten’s score gives them, and to the music director Stuart Stratford, who directs the ebb and flow of the drama so that the chaos never gets completely out of control.”
“David Shipley’s bass is almost too rich for Bottom, but he channels it marvellously into the comedy.”
Simon Thompson, The Times ***
"Jonathan McGovern’s Demetrius, Charlie Drummond’s Helena, Lea Shaw’s Hermia and Elgan Llŷr Thomas’s Lysander – all singers to watch – found maximum character in the quartet of lovers. Glen Cunningham as Francis Flute, tottering in high heels, let rip in his limelight moment as Thisbe, high comedy, well handled. His co-Rustics, led by David Shipley as the winningly bumptious weaver Nick Bottom made merry in their last act entertainment, to much audience laughter."
“The orchestra of Scottish Opera and Stratford, the company’s music director, deserved their extra-loud applause.”
Fiona Maddocks, The Guardian
"Britten's extraordinary orchestral scoring was brilliantly executed by the Orchestra Of Scottish Opera with conductor Stuart Stratford. The finesse of quicksilver detail really brought the supernatural world brilliantly alive, especially with some stunning playing from wind and brass."
"A play with three strands to it (the fairy world, four young lovers and six tradesmen who are amateur actors) it is the latter group which brings the comedic element. Led by David Shipley's gently humorous Bottom, the moments of laughter may have been predictable but at the same time were somehow reassuring in their familiarity."
Fiona Main, The List ****

A Midsummer Night’s Dream continues with performances at Theatre Royal Glasgow until 26 February and at Festival Theatre Edinburgh until 5 March. Read more about the production here and watch the trailer on YouTube here.

Photo credit: James Glossop

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