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Reviewed by Charles Remington for Readers' Favorite
The denizens of Feyland, as described in William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, are fed up! Due to a pact made with the erstwhile bard, they are forced to attend every performance of the whimsical play and the performances of one particular company are proving very tiresome indeed. Midsummer’s Bottom by Darren Dash tells how Oberon, unable to interfere in human affairs directly, tasks the character Puck with finding a human with enough guile and disruptive energy to break up the awful players for good. Enter Del Chapman, a troublesome free spirit who delights in creating havoc wherever he goes. Assisted by Puck, he inveigles himself into the troupe at the start of their annual two-week preparation for the midsummer night performance. Slowly he manages to undermine, demoralize and enrage the players. He is not a cruel man, however, and it is done in a light-hearted, humorous way. Encouraged by his subversive machinations, the actors find themselves in situations they had never dreamed of, reflecting on their lives and relationships, experimenting with their sexuality, and trying hard to come to terms with what they find out in the process. The troupe’s annual productions are notoriously bad, but by a series of unlikely circumstances a huge audience with folk standing at the back and the luckless faeries hovering in the shadows are all crowded into the forest glade which is their stage. Will the players manage to overcome their engineered differences and put on a show, or will Del Chapman succeed in scuppering the company once and for all?
Midsummer’s Bottom is a delightful book with the lyrical words of the bard and the theme of his magical work intertwined into the story line. Darren Dash displays a profound knowledge of the play and a deft hand with his characterisation of the principal players. His narrative moves along at a brisk pace, probably more so than the play, and the characters are solid and well drawn. By the end of the book I felt I knew each one intimately and, as with any good story, was concerned about what would happen to them. But I need not have worried - Mr Dash is an accomplished wordsmith and brings the chaos to the sort of satisfying finale that, had I been in a theatre, I would have stood to applaud. This book will surely appeal to fans of the theatre as well as performers, professional and amateur alike. Not only will you enjoy the peerless prose, cringe at the fluffed lines, and laugh at the muddled entrances, but by stealth you will also learn much about Shakespeare’s play. I thoroughly enjoyed Midsummer’s Bottom and do not hesitate to recommend it.