A Midsummer Night's Dream
William Shakespeare, adapted by Hattie Naylor
the egg, Theatre Royal, Bath
The Shakespeare Unplugged Festival at the egg, Theatre Royal Bath, kicks off with aplomb this week with a revival of Hattie Naylor's pitch-perfect adaptation of A Midsummer Night's Dream, first commissioned by the Theatre Royal Bath Education Department in 2002.
The Festival aims to "strip down, redress and reinterpret the bard's work for people of all ages who like a non-traditional and contemporary take on the work of Shakespeare". Naylor's lively and accessible adaptation celebrates the language and fun of the original text, but deftly embeds within it a contemporary narrative voice. This lends the play accessibility to first-time audiences, without sacrificing authenticity. The net effect is a sophisticated, assured adaptation, and an entertaining piece of theatre, whatever your age.
The production has more than a sniff of vaudeville. This is suggested immediately by the innovative set, designed by Hayley Grindle, but is worked to great effect by Lee Lyford's tight direction, making the most of some great visual gags. The highly versatile cast, with perfect comic timing and some frantic costume changes, seal the deal. The conundrum of how a cast of four tackle complex scenes involving far more than four characters becomes an opportunity for yet more comic antics, particularly so where the four lovers chase each other through the forest.
Chris Yapp is an endearing Puck, and carries the weight of Naylor's contemporary voice, slipping in and out of the original text and bridging the two by passing comment on the evening's proceedings, all to great comic effect.
The many faces of Jennifer Lee Jellicorse work brilliantly well to convey the very separate identities of an aristocratic Hippolyta, a wistful and love-struck Hermia, Helena with all her issues and low self-esteem, and a lusty Titania.
Craig Edwards is a spitting-mad Egeus, a dim-witted Demetrius and a captivating Bottom, who takes on the role of all the players in a show-stopping scene.
David Rogers plays Theseus, a commanding Oberon and an earnest Lysander.
With the exception of one or two scenes, this is a face-paced and energised production, pared down to ninety minutes of fun-filled theatre. A perfect introduction to Shakespeare it certainly is, but it has far more to offer besides.
"A Midsummer Night's Dream" runs at the egg until Saturday 8th March
Reviewer: Allison Vale