Imagine this. Going to see a performance of 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' (or indeed any play) and being able to stand right next to the actors as they speak their lines. Moving from location to location for each scene, sometimes down earthen pathways that are lined with candles and lanterns, with each scene having its own unique outdoor setting. Being accompanied by a group of minstrels who play beautifully on the walks through the trees and gravestones of Abney Park Cemetery - for this is where this particular Dream takes place, for the next few midsummer nights.
There's no point in me urging you to go (unless you want to take a chance on the gate) because its short run has been completely sold out in advance. The audience for each performance is limited to 40. But what a privilege it was to be there on the opening night.
For those readers who don't know Abney Park Cemetery itself I would certainly urge you to go there and just wander around - it's open every day of the week, thanks to the volunteer group who have made it accessible and look after it. It's an unbelievable place in the heart of Hackney/Stoke Newington, just behind the corner of N16 where the Church Street meets the High Street. It's the most magnificent Gothic cemetery you could possibly imagine, complete with a ruined spooky church, thousands of amazing tombs and gravestones, and huge mature trees.
I was told by the director, Owen Lewis - who happens to live literally a stone's throw from the cemetary - that the production has been put on for about 1500 quid, since no-one is being paid for their work. In other words, this is a group of highly talented, highly skilled people coming together to do something amazing - just for fun!
It's definitely fun for the enthralled and appreciative audience too, as well as being delightful, captivating, involving and at times stunning. I could mention any number of scenes where the setting, the action and the performances take you by surprise and genuinely excite and amaze.
There's no point singling out individual actors - they're all superb in the delivery of their lines and in the execution of their bits of business which make this production such a laugh-out-loud piece of work, as well as a powerful study of human foibles and foolishness.
For what is this thing called 'falling in love', that creates such individual and collective madness? It may as well be inflicted on us by unseen and unseeable fairies, since it usually appears as if from nowhere, and is inclined to disappear as quickly as it came, having run its course of fever and havoc, having inflicted destructive emotions on so many of those who fall in love, and some of those who only stand and watch. Passion, jealousy, envy, wrath, hatred, fear, insults, unreason, enmity, sometimes violence and sometimes death - all in the name of love. What delicious and amusing irony - if you happen to be a non-attached onlooker, or a member of an audience. Not so much fun and not so amusing if you happen to be one of the 'love' struck, one of the love deprived, or someone hit by its backlash.
After the play ends the audience leaves the cemetery through an avenue of the 17 actors - each standing stock still, staring straight ahead, like statues holding candles and lanterns. As a son of Warwickshire myself I'd suggest that Shakespeare himself would have been delighted with this amazing production of his amazing play.
And as a good friend said to me afterwards - Keven Spacey and Richard III are wonderful at the Old Vic, but no more wonderful than this magical production in this magical setting.
Apparently the Trustees of the cemetery are keen to see much more use made of it for plays and drama, so keep an eye open for future developments. You'll be sorry if you miss out.