A Midsummer Night's Dream

William Shakespeare

Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory

The Tobacco Factory, Bristol

(2010)

Review by Pete Wood

Despite some rather inflated claims made on behalf of this production - e.g. better than the admittedly uneven Rose staging which preceded it - SATTF's staging of that perennial favourite displays the company's familiar strengths.

It is marked by a sense of darkness and lust, Lear's injunction, "to it, pell-mell" could serve as a motto for Tim Hilton's characteristically text-driven production as opposed, say, to those of Lucy Bailey in which the visual always seems to take precedence, often at the expense of the spoken word, pace her Macbeth.

No such danger here, although clarity and sense do not always prevail. Still, Hilton, as in previous productions brings coherence and pace. This Dream crackles with energy, much of it sexual. It is also shot through with menace.

The fairies wear black and sport sunglasses, a witty device for pointing up their invisibility to the human protagonists. The effect is redolent of The Matrix.

Some of the acting is a little giddy though no doubt this is of a piece with the spirit of this staging which, like Tim Supple's multilingual version for the RSC some years ago, is at pains avoid the languor that can becalm some Dreams.

The comedy afforded by the Mechanicals is pretty well-handled and pleases although other versions have mined more laughs. There is a nice touch with the transformation of Bottom (Chris Donnelly) into an ass which is at first received as a joke by his companions before they are overwhelmed by terror.

Among a committed cast, Amy Rockson shines as a feisty Titania although, as always with SATTF, it is all about ensemble playing rather than star turns.