Lord what fools these mortals be…
What is real? What is imagined?
I adore Shakespeare. The quirks in his style, the many sayings that still exist in our 21st century language and the interwoven stories. I’ve seen The Dream many times in many different ways and yet somehow there remain countless ways to adapt it.
Director Simon Evans has delved into the secondary story of Peter Quince and his actors and chosen to bring it to the fore. The actors are thus playing themselves and cast in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. As their player selves morph with Shakespeare’s own characters, tempers fray and true feelings are revealed… with a little help from the imaginative audience.
Despite audience participation, breaking of the fourth wall and several diva strops, the play manages to avoid descending into pantomime chaos. This is in part down to the actors, who convince the audience of their multiple characters with almost no differentiation. Yes, there is a comedy moustache or hat here and there, but for the most part characters are brought to life with body language, accent and facial expressions alone. No smoke. No mirrors.
Each actor brings something new to their interpretation, although none of the original magic is lost. In fact what you get is a pitch-perfect performance of the main story with an extremely adept cast. However, it is as their player characters – both as themselves and Shakespeare’s – that they truly shine.
Lucy Eaton (Helena/Starveling) is feisty as Helena, but it is as Moonshine and herself that her comedic (and linguisitic) ability is revealed. The same can be said for Suzie Preece (Hermia/Snug) who is lovely as Hermia, but models Snug on none other than Cheryl Cole Versini-Fernandez…
As Puck, Melanie Fullbrook causes chaos for the lovers, but spends the rest of her time – as herself – trying to save the audience from the rest of the cast… particularly from Ludovic Hughes (Oberon/Theseus) who is continuously breaking character to ask the audience to use their imagination.
Freddie Hutchins (Lysander/Flute), when playing himself, fuses his jealousy with Flute’s and Lysander’s to create a hate campaign against Freddie Fox (Bottom/Demetrius) culminating in the tragic demise of poor Pyramus in a slightly less manly way.
Freddie Fox is excellent as Nick Bottom the Weaver. Despite lacking an actual ass head, he morphs (with his own commentary it’s true) into an ass, and a very believable one at that! Maddy Hill’s Titania is reminisce of Cate Blanchet’s Galadriel, while as Quince she is almost unrecognisable – complete with ever-changing moustache.
This version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is both mad, magical and hilarious, which just proves that with a strong script and talented actors, there is no need for an expensive set or full orchestra. The clever decision to fuse a fairy tale with reality is a brilliant decision of which Shakespeare himself would have approved.
Reviewer : Michaela Clement Hayes.
Photo Credit : Harry Grindrod
A Midsummer Night’s Dream runs at Southwark Playhouse from 31st May – 1st July 2016
This review first appeared on The Stage is my World and is used with kind permission by Michaela Clement Hayes
Tickets courtesy of TheatreBloggers.