A Midsummer Night's Dream

William Shakespeare
St Luke's Church, Liverpool

Want to pack out your theatre to the rafters (assuming of course it has any in the first place)? Easy. Pick the right location. In Liverpool’s famous ‘bombed out’ church (St Luke’s) that’s precisely what Purplecoat has done for its production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

On an unseasonably warm April evening, the congregation swelled and kept on swelling. The old church seemed to groan under the weight, unused to such numbers. Shakespeare in a ruined church. Irresistible.

Purplecoat’s production of the Dream is, as ever, one of many doing the rounds as the nights and spirits lighten. This, however, is a production that proudly anchors itself in its home town—the cast mostly hailing from Liver-bird land. Let me tell ya, there’s nothing quite like the melodious cadences of Scouse-speare. It just works, trust me.

This Midsummer Dream is a joyously uproarious production. There’s nothing dark about this dream. Au contraire, It’s light and fluffy. Titania and Oberon are Batman and Robin, be-masked, be-caped and just as dynamic. Tasha Ryan’s Puck meanwhile is a kaleidoscopic harlequin, faithful yes, but certainly not averse to giving her master a bit of lip when required.

The mechanicals are a suitably ragbag bunch lead by Thomas Whittaker’s Bottom—the kind of Bottom you’d encounter in Wetherspoons trying to flog you a knock-down pair of trainees. Calm down! Calm down!

Jack Spencer (Demetrius) Karl Falconer (Lysander) Lois Crawford (Helena) and Lauren Davey (Hermia) play a frisky quartet of X-Factor kids looking for instant gratification, and when not getting it, liable to throw a wobbler. Respect to Mr Falconer for stepping into the breach to cover illness with all of two days’ notice!

This is the type of production that one can’t help but warm to. If it occasionally lacks a little in the way of finesse, it is more than made up for with sheer exuberance of the cast. And thanks to some judicious editing, this Dream simply whizzes past.

By no means is this a magical dream, though, not in terms of classical productions. This is a dream with its tongue very firmly in its cheek; think comic caper, think geeky, squeaky cartoon strip: there’s UHT cream a-squirting, ad-libbing a-plenty, and to top it all Y-fronts a-heaving. You get the picture.

While this version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream might not be to everyone’s taste, it’s a risk worth taking. Playing it safe with Shakespeare is a sure-fire ticket to sterility.

Thank heaven then for companies like Purplecoat which certainly manages to refresh the parts that loftier, resource-heavy grandees often fail to reach.

Reviewer: David Sedgwick

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