A Midummer Night's Dream

William Shakespeare
Royal Shakespeare Company
Novello Theatre
(2006)

Production photo

All too often A Midsummer Night's Dream can lack magic and provide a tedious three hours. It is a delight to report that Greg Doran's transfer from Stratford bucks that trend.

From its opening moments, when two sci fi villains joust under a blood orange of a moon, this modern dress version is constantly funny and often very sexy.

The opening scenes introduce Sinéad Keenan as a tiny, very demonstrative Hermia spurning her father's choice, smug Demetrius (Oscar Pearce) in favour of louche, dishevelled Lysander. Trystan Gravelle plays the kind of man no father would select for his daughter. To complete the circle, Caitlin Mottram's glum Helena loves Demetrius but cannot get a look in with Hermia in the way.

When despairing Hermia and Lysander elope into a nuclear winter of a wood, the other pair follows and the fun begins. There reside a group of post punk fairies led by Joe Dixon's bleach blond Oberon and Amanda Harris playing his Queen Titania,

The third group is a team of Brummagem mechanicals led by Peter Quince (Paul Chahidi) but ruled by the strong personality of Bottom played by show-stealer Malcolm Storry who heroically grabs the attention every time he appears, even without the head of an ass.

The fun is injected by lazy Puck, a fairy in a donkey jacket played by the very funny Jonathan Slinger. This is a sprite for whom the ubiquitous "whatever" could have been a byword and for whom no effort is too little. His efforts to do Oberon's bidding with halucinogenic drugs spice up the love quadrangle to great comic effect and also leave an embarassed Titania chasing ass.

All comes out right in the end but not before the funniest mechanicals' Pyramus and Thisbe that could be imagined. The lion is straight from Oz (Dorothy's rather than Downunder) and Jamie Ballard's wallis a straight-faced comic genius.

Greg Doran excels with tremendous touches of humour that eventually drew regular spontaneous applause from an appreciative audience. The visuals, designed by Stephen Brimson Lewis are downbeat but effective, usually underlit by Tim Mitchell for mystical effect.

This glorious Midsummer Night's Dream could well become the standard by which other contemporary productions are judged and it richly deserves such an accolade.

This production was also reviewed by Steve Orme in Stratford and by Peter Lathan in Newcastle.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher