A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Reviewed – 8th September 2017
“A wonderfully diverse cast, and a mix of accents really make this four hundred year old play feel contemporary”
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is perhaps Shakespeare’s greatest comedy. In this production, The Acting Gymnasium puts a refreshingly new spin on the classic play by setting it in a modern day music festival. As a theme this works extraordinarily well; the use of contemporary music and recreational drugs are particularly clever additions.
A large part of the effectiveness of this piece is due to Gavin McAlinden’s direction. There are a number of particularly impressive directorial choices. From the beginning members of the acting troupe are dispersed throughout the auditorium, this helps bring the audience into the action and seem less like uninvolved spectators. The use of the fairly small performance space at Theatro Technis is also clever, with the four doors around it used almost constantly throughout, creating an illusion of the action taking place in a much larger space.
Meanwhile the actors work as an extremely strong ensemble. The scenes in which the cast are all called upon to create the atmosphere of a music festival are brilliantly performed. As an audience member it suddenly brings us back to the setting of the play, which can be forgotten while concentrating on the meaning of the Shakespearian text. One criticism however, is that iambic pentameter is quite often forgotten about, though this could be a directorial choice to keep in with the modern theme.
The four lovers’ performance becomes particularly strong during the scenes where chaos descends. Their insults are filled with punch and truly feel as though they understand exactly what they are saying, something that is notoriously difficult to achieve with Shakespeare. For me, Thomas Witcomb’s portrayal of Bottom is particularly strong. His grasp of the humour in the text is fantastic and his performance in the ‘play within the play’ is hilarious.
As for the technical aspects of the show, the set is basic but I don’t really believe this is a performance that needs a detailed set as it relies more on the actors to make the audience believe where they are. I did find the lighting a little unexciting due to the slightly dim general wash that was used for the majority of the performance, even a small difference in the brightness could have added more to this excellent show. It was also quite hard to understand why the house lights remained up for the beginning of the first scene, to me this just led to the audience not being immediately sucked into the action.
Overall this is Shakespeare for the modern day. It’s not magical plants, but drugs causing the confusion. A wonderfully diverse cast, and a mix of accents really make this four hundred year old play feel contemporary. The Acting Gymnasium have created an excellent performance that reflects our society. As they say in their programme, this truly is “Shakespeare for a Camden audience.”
Reviewed by Katie Douglas
A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM
is in repertoire at Theatro Technis until 16th September