A Midsummer Night’s Dream

William Shakespeare
Flabbergast Theatre
Wilton’s Music Hall, London

Listing details and ticket info...

Krystian Godlewski as Oberon Credit: Michael Lynch
A Midsummer Night’s Dream Credit: Michael Lynch
A Midsummer Night’s Dream Credit: Michael Lynch

Flabbergast takes a lively, physically powered comic swipe at Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. Abandoning a naturalistic approach to the acting, it sometimes reminds us of a pantomime in search of easy laughs where the plot’s potential themes are largely discarded and it isn't always easy to follow the meaning or the richness of what they are saying.

There are promising moments. They open the show standing in a circle centre stage, movingly singing in Polish the song "Zachodźże słoneczko" ("Set sun set"). If the mood conjured up by that song had continued, the play would have been a different and much better experience.

Instead, they resurrected a knockabout caricature version of the Mechanicals, which at one time in the past would be used as satiric comic relief from the other more serious, intense elements of the show. That approach now tends to be regarded as too crude and dismissive of working people.

Here it barely contrasts with the approach of all the actors, who mostly give flamboyantly exaggerated performances geared toward silly humour.

When Helen (Vyte Garriga) feels mocked by Lysander (Elliot Pritchard) and Demetrius (Nadav Burstein) claiming they love her, she says, “If you were men, as men you are in show, You would not use a gentle lady”. They instantly laugh and simultaneously check inside their pants.

Krystian Godlewski as Oberon at times bounces around the stage on spring stilts, contorts his voice and facial expressions. When he can’t get his way, he throws himself face down on the stage crying and banging his feet and hands on the floor in a tantrum. You almost expect Puck (Lennie Longworth) to suggest he is in the wrong play.

Although, like other themes, the issue of sexual consent is barely covered, we are reminded of its existence in the play. As Titania (Reanne Black) uses her magical power as the fairy Queen to prevent Bottom from leaving her, telling him in harsh tones, “Thou shalt remain here, whether thou wilt or no”, his reaction momentarily illustrates that he has no choice in the matter. Unfortunately, the effect is slight and the production doesn’t give us much opportunity to empathise with Bottom (Simon Gleaves).

Some of the audience roared with laughter during this one-hundred-and-seventy-minute performance, but others in the rows around me politely slipped away during the interval.

There is no question they have an entertaining, playful approach to theatre. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work on this occasion.

Reviewer: Keith Mckenna

*Some links, including Amazon, Stageplays.com, Bookshop.org, ATG Tickets, LOVEtheatre, BTG Tickets, Ticketmaster, LW Theatres and QuayTickets, are affiliate links for which BTG may earn a small fee at no extra cost to the purchaser.

Are you sure?