THERE’S a new contagion sweeping the land, taking all before it… the idea that Shakespeare can actually be good fun and not cosily corseted by intellectual elites and their fellow travellers.

In the vanguard of this movement – along with the superb Worcester Rep, of course – are Worcestershire’s Madcap Theatre Productions who have taken the Bard’s frolic in the Forest of Arden by the scruff of the ruff and given it a good shake.

And this can mean only one thing. There’s never a dull moment… For this helter-skelter ride through the greenwood is a crash, bang and wallop of a show that never for one single moment lets up on the madness and mayhem.

There are no passengers on this ship of lunacy in the moonlight. But Lindsey Chaplin (Titania) and Oisin Porter as sprite Puck are absolutely outstanding, the latter on one occasion invading the audience area and infecting us all with his mischief.

The ‘love scene’ between the coquettish Queen of the Fairies and Bottom (Robert Moore) is a truly hysterical interlude. The latter’s doubling-up as Lysander is also a nice touch in this tangled tale of mistaken identities.

At times, the piece assumes the mantle of a Whitehall Farce, with plenty of running through thickets instead of bedroom doors.

Meanwhile, Edward De Gaetano (Oberon) manages to keep everyone in some sort of order although he certainly has his hands full with an impossibly hyper Hermia (Matilda Bott) and horrific Helena (Anna Nicholson), who must surely be a candidate for the top role if the company ever does The Taming of the Shrew.

And not to be outdone, we have Demetrius (James Labdarbs) and Egeus (Patricia Hobday) who bring lashings of seasoning to what is an already rich, arboreal soup.

Emma Leigh’s skilful direction has created a dream of a masterpiece and one that made for a fantastic night of entertainment in the equally perfect setting of Worcester’s historic Greyfriars garden.

John Phillpott