A Midsummer Night’s Dream
The Rose Playhouse
Reviewed – 3rd August 2017
“Delivered with real energy and verve… fun, fast and very entertaining”
Be warned: this show features a lot of audience participation. Both as you arrive, when there are inflatable versions of fairground games such as ring-toss, and during the performance. One lucky unsuspecting member of the audience will be pulled on stage to act the part of ‘wall’ (with lines!). If this is not your cup of tea, do not sit in the front row! However, if you enjoy this sort of thing, then you are in for a treat.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays. As such, the challenge for new productions becomes what new, distinctive spin they can twist it with. Unfolds Theatre have plumped for a Victorianesque funfair theme, hence the games at the beginning. Whilst this inspires the zany costumes, it really only comes into its own in the fairy scenes.
The cast is excellent, all performing at least two roles; there is never any confusion between the characters, which, with the rapid speed of the plot, speaks to their skill. Sydney Aldridge is particularly good in the cleverly paired dual roles of the lovelorn Helena and the preening Bottom.
Most of the action plays out on a balcony overlooking the Rose Playhouse’s preserved ruins of the Elizabethan theatre in use in Shakespeare’s day. These are decked out in fairy lights and large inflatable ducks, which is visually arresting, though it doesn’t really add much to the drama, which has enough wit and exuberance of its own.
There are also some odd tonal shifts. The more threatening aspects of the funfair theme are never explored and Theseus’s words to his wife-to-be that he ‘wooed thee with my sword … And won thy love doing thee injuries …’ are spoken with none of the implied darkness. And yet there is a strong threat of violence within the young lovers’ scenes, which are some of the lightest and frothiest in the play, and this interpretation leaves a sour taste in the mouth.
Nevertheless, despite these oddities, in this production, delivered with real energy and verve, Shakespeare’s great play is delivered at a fun, fast and very entertaining pace.
Reviewed by Alice Gray
Photography by Kathy Travelyan
A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM
is at The Rose Playhouse until 26th August