Most brides come down the aisle to the sound of Mendelssohn's Wedding March but few realise that it was composed as incidental music for "A Midsummer Night's Dream" in 1843 commissioned by the King of Prussia!

Hermia and Lysander, under the watchful gaze of Margaret Faultless, the leader of the OAE
Hermia and Lysander, under the watchful gaze of Margaret Faultless, the leader of the OAE

Yet nowadays it is very seldom heard in conjunction with the play. I was fortunate enough to get a sneak preview of a Radio 3 and Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment collaboration at the very illustrious Middle Temple on Monday evening. The stage was not enormous, and was filled with chairs and instruments so for a heart stopping moment it appeared that there would be no performance of the play, since there was no obvious place for the actors.

To my amazement the actors managed to work around the musicians, although how the latter managed to focus on their instruments with Puck and the lovers winding between them was a mystery. Despite minimal costuming and no staging the players wove a magical web around us, delighting us with their telling of this well known tale, with glorious assistance from the antics of "the mechanicals" who as in long tradition, stole the play. My thirteen year old son chuckled at their antics and was robust in his dismissal of the women of the play who in his view both deserved the feckless treatment by the two men.

Charles Hazlewood drew a sweetness of tone from the music as he kept up the tempo making the event all the more enjoyable for the viewers, and both he and Margaret Faultless were both involved in the action to a greater extent than might have been expected. Both coped wonderfully with this extra dimension. To say any more would be to spoil the event which you can watch too, on the BBC Radio 3 website from Sunday at 8 pm by pushing the red interactive button.

Alison Karlin 6th May 2009