It was more like a Midday Summer’s Dream on Sunday as a blisteringly hot July afternoon provided the perfect backdrop for a noon performance of this year’s opening production in the Grosvenor Park.

These 12 o’clock shows have been specifically included to attract the family audience which is a canny move by organisers Chester Performs as there is no better introduction to Shakespeare for youngsters than this charming fantasy.

Bearing in mind that Andy Murray was due on court in the Wimbledon final just two hours after the show started, the turn-out was very impressive with the whole of the back rows full of people making the most of the necessary shade.

But the picnic area in the centre was also well populated with theatre-goers who enjoyed the added bonus of becoming part of the action as the company of actors liberally helped themselves to samples of food and drink brought along by the crowd!

 

In fact, it was that kind of performance where the lines between actors and audience, fantasy and reality were constantly blurred, enhanced by the hustle and bustle of a busy park full of sun-worshippers just beyond the wonderful temporary theatre which is now in its fourth memorable year.

All of which seemed entirely appropriate for one of the Bard’s most beloved and accessible plays where magical fairies play fast and loose with the emotions and affairs of four human lovers.

There are so many crowd pleasing moments in this work: lovelorn Helena’s pursuit of an alarmed Demetrius; the colourful company of amateur actors preparing their latest production; Bottom’s transformation into an ass and fairy queen Titania falling for him while under a spell; then both Lysander and Demetrius, equally enchanted, fighting over their love for a baffled Helena in front of a distraught and spurned Hermia.

But you still need the right performers under the right direction to make the most of them and, as has become traditional with this annual cultural highlight, the production delivered in spades.

Director Alex Clifton’s ace in the hole and moment of inspiration came with splitting the role of Puck and Robin Goodfellow but giving them to identical sisters and Lara Pulver-lookalikes Danielle Bird and Nichole Bird.

Whether lurking knowingly on the sidelines or manipulating both humans and fairies with direct action, the sisters reigned supreme over the proceedings with their deliciously mischievous performances.

And Clifton had fun with scenes where one sister exits stage left while the other enters stage right - something which left the audience genuinely puzzled until both actresses appear in the same scene.

The Bird sisters are new to the Park season but there were a couple of familiar faces who made welcome returns.

Victoria Gee has become a Chester favourite and was a joy as the oft-wronged Helena while the elegant and exotic Krupa Pattani was as alluring as ever in the dual roles of Titania and Hippolyta. And Chris Vincent was imperious and regal as Oberon and Theseus.

It was a delightful start to what will hopefully be a long, hot summer of top class theatre entertainment which continues with Cyrano De Bergerac this weekend and Othello next month.

And to round off a perfect day, Andy Murray saw his own Midsummer Night’s Dream come true at Wimbledon just a few hours later!