A Midsummer Night's Dream
The Watermill Ensemble
Wilton's Music Hall
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is possibly Shakespeare’s most popular comedic work with love and magic, laughs and marriage proving a timeless combination.Treading this well-covered ground are the Watermill Ensemble who lightly skip through the clichés, revel in the familiarity and bring a sparkle of their own making to the classic text.
The gorgeously decayed Wilton’s is the perfect backdrop to this consciously theatrical production with Katie Lias’s moody designs creating an unreal quality to proceedings.
The cast of ten are a delight, skilfully switching roles, costumes and instruments to the extent that it’s hard to keep up with the doubling. In battered top hats, they represent the fairy court, in overalls for the mechanicals and Victorian pomp for the Athenian garments. Particularly comical is the choice to cast Tom Sowinski as Theseus and Wall, an unexpected touch.
Providing the most obviously traditional element of the production are the four lovers, Hermia (Lucy Keirl) and Lysander (Billy Postlethwaite), who are escaping the laws of Athens, with Demetrius (Mike Slader) and Helena (Robyn Sinclair) in pursuit. In this feisty four are the expected laughs, from the tears and tantrums to fighting cheek by jowl. They are solid performances but the magic of the production lies elsewhere.
By weaving movement and song into the action, the forest becomes a dreamscape in which Laura Mvula’s "Sing to the Moon" and old favourite "Cupid" seem appropriate, normal even. Regularly making appearances, the fairy court creates an atmosphere of quiet omniscience at odds with Puck’s (Molly Chesworth) frantic mischief-making.
Appearing as a distant Hippolyta but inevitably making more of a mark as a sensuous Titania, Emma McDonald commands the stage. Her velvety vocals ensure her speeches drip with meaning, her gentle elegance lending the performance a regal air, even when madly enamoured with an ass.
In this most coveted of roles is Victoria Blunt, an utterly charming Bottom who maximises the character’s arrogance and ego whilst also maintaining great enthusiasm and a likeability factor. She winks, jests and dances delivering laughter lines aplenty as well as throwing in some perfectly practiced asides.
Act one flies by, the action charging forward and yet curiously the pace seems to drop in act two. This doesn’t affect the comedy in the tragical tale of Pyramus and Thisbe, however, with the cast making the most of the opportunity to showcase the ridiculous, the inclusion of the sisters three with hands of milk a very neat and literal touch.
Paul Hart’s tight ensemble delivers a seamless dream providing plenty of laughs with a sprinkling of magical melodies.
Reviewer: Amy Yorston