SUMMER Solstice today, Midsummer Day on Friday, this is peak season for A Midsummer Night's Dream, and Sprite Productions have found a magical place to play Shakespeare's greatest outdoor hit.

The young company has the inside track on Ripley Castle: cast member Hester Evans hails from the village, and her parents have been instrumental in securing the castle grounds for this promenade production.

It is not everyday that a theatre company can legitimately state "stage design by Capability Brown", but such is the status of Ripley Castle's gardens. Here sun-bathed jugglers and magicians make way for the Athenian Court of Theseus (Derek Hagen) and Hippolyta (Sarah Goddard) in the Walled Garden, where the early scenes of Stuart Harvey's briskly whisked production are set on terrace and lawns.

We meet the four thwarted young lovers and the hard-handed, rude mechanical theatrical troupe attired in late-Victorian clothes, director Harvey choosing the turn of the last century for his time zone on account of its heralding a "new era of uncertainty". The First World War was looming, he reasons, and Sigmund Freud's new book, Interpretation Of Dreams, was top of the hardback charts.

Uncertainty and dreams, hopes and fears, love potions and high emotions, Freud and Puck, all come to the party as the play undergoes its transition from town to turf through the magic portal of the castle's Palm House. We emerge the other side in the torch-lit Ripley woods, the fairyland for Oberon (Hagen, with voice deepened and more richly fruited) and his bearded agent Puck (nimble Daniel Crossley) to have their sport with Queen Titania (Goddard the Goth).

Puck's mischievous misapplication of the love potion sets Hester Evans's Hermia and Joanna Croll's Helena into clothes-ripping physical combat, matched by the woodland scrapping of clean-cut suitors Lysander (Glyn Williams) and Demetrius (Tristan Beint). How tame Celebrity Love Island looks by comparison.

Not to be outdone, Peter Stephens's Nick Bottom does the donkey work with glee, making a joyous ass of himself in Titania's forest boudoir before the Walled Garden aptly plays host to the frolicsome final flourish.

Box office: 01423 771251.

Updated: 11:22 Tuesday, June 21, 2005