REVIEW: Cheltenham Everyman Theatre Company in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, York Theatre Royal ****

Top: The look of love for Natalie Winsor’s Titania and Tweedy the clown’s Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Picture: Andrew Higgs/Thousand Word Media

BOTTOM has top billing in Everyman Theatre’s touring production of Shakespeare’s most performed, most perfumed comedy.

Tweedy, the Scottish clown with the trademark red stripe in his hair, is the Cheltenham theatre’s regular pantomime daft lad (although he played dame for the first time last winter), as well as being a staple of Giffords Circus for 17 years.

Everyman director Paul Milton had cast Tweedy – real name Alan Digweed – as Estragon opposite Jeremey Stockwell’s Vladimir as the clowning duo in Samuel Beckett’s apocalyptic Waiting For Godot and now reunites them in his ‘Dream’ adaptation.

Tweedy plays the heavy-coated Bottom to Stockwell’s Welsh-voiced Puck and West Country Snug, his fellow Rude Mechanical. The squeak in Tweedy’s Bottom puts you in mind of Harrogate Theatre’s panto clown, Tim Stedman, while the silver tongue and riparian flow of Stockwell’s Puck evokes Richard Burton’s rendition of Dylan Thomas’s Under Milk Wood.

Significantly too, Milton has cut out classical Greek references and “bits of speech that now feel quite archaic” in pursuit of creating “accessible Shakespeare” without modernising it.

This gives more space for clowning interjections by Tweedy’s nimble, quick-thinking loon, whether being hit by a plank of wood or Moon’s lamp, wrestling with a deckchair, being dragged back by an unseen dog or quoting Shakespeare’s Richard III as he gives the kiss of life to a pantomime horse.

The stuffed horse promptly drops three plops…for Tweedy to demonstrate his juggling skills. Oh, and how he could resist expelling Bottom burps, putting the ‘f ‘ into art, in the way that so many panto fools do.

This might feel like a commercial pantomime’s habit of shoehorning a star name’s speciality act into a show, but here it is entirely in keeping with the character of Nick Bottom, the weaver, the attention seeker, the egotist, who reckons he can play every part in the Mechanicals’ play. Tweedy is the show’s comedy advisor too, although Botom would probably reckon he should have that duty!

Milton restricts his cast to only ten, so everyone aside from Bottom has two or three roles, switching from the Athenian court to the forest fairyland, pretty much all of them playing a fairy.

This makes for a wholly satisfying ensemble experience, a seamless Dream, classical and magical, with a relish for the words as much as for the fractious fizz in the clashes of Troy Alexander’s Oberon and Natalie Winsor’s Titania and the young lovers (Oliver Brooks/Nadia Shash and Thomas Nellstrop/Laura Noble).

Milton has assembled a superb production team too: Charles Cusick-Smith and Phil R Daniels’ gorgeous set and costume designs for court and forest alike; Michael Childs’ delightful compositions; Michael E Hall’s midsummer lighting and Steve Anderson’s sound design that fills the auditorium with atmospheric woodland wildlife.

Above all, Tweedy’s Bottom makes an ass of himself with glee, cheek and joie de vivre. Bottom’s up indeed.

Cheltenham Everyman Theatre Company, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, York Theatre Royal, tonight, 7pm; tomorrow, 2.30pm and 7pm. Box office: 01904 623568 or

Bottom: Tweedy the clown in his ass-ured performance as Nick Bottom, the weaver, in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Picture: Andrew Higgins/Thousand Word Media

One Reply to “REVIEW: Cheltenham Everyman Theatre Company in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, York Theatre Royal ****”

  1. Brilliant review of a brilliant production.has it been filmed as I’m going to the Macbeth film in may at Picturehouse having seen it in Edinburgh .’

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