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A Midsummer Night’s Dream
★★★★★

Arundel and Ladbroke Gardens

A Midsummer Nights Dream

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Arundel and Ladbroke Gardens

Reviewed – 25th June 2019

★★★★★

 

“this setting could have been made for A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with Tatty Hennessy born to direct”

 

Stepping into a normally locked, private garden a few long days after the Summer Solstice is the perfect entry to Shakespeare’s fantastic interplay of human passions and fairy spells. Arundel and Ladbroke Gardens supplies a cluster of trees and shrubs, to be adorned with bunting and soft lighting and it’s not long before this Shakespeare in the Squares production transports you sufficiently to block out the Notting Hill noise beyond the hedge.

This is Tatty Hennessy’s third production with the company, her last being a 1970s Music Festival setting for As you Like It, an interpretation that played better than most because it followed the cultural, fashion and musical spirit of the work rather than indulging a historical theory. Indeed, the idea of a 1920s Midsummer Night’s Dream initially suggests some convoluted connection being made, between two eras of post-war fallout. Thankfully, it is again the decade’s cultural resonances that are reflected, with costume (Emma Lindsey) and music (Richard Baker) bringing out the play’s themes of attraction, love, magic and bacchanalia with effortless aptness. The aesthetics of burlesque and 1920s Music Hall are a fine fit for the lusts and jealousies of Hermia, Lysander, Demetrius and Helena, just as suited to the Mechanicals’ ham-fisted style of entertainment and afford the fairy characters a louche, decadent manner whether carelessly casting spells or settling back with popcorn to enjoy the emotional carnage they’ve caused.

The casting for this troupe of players, most of whom must double up as musicians and singers as well as other characters, is a triumph of talent logistics. Paul Giddings trisects Theseus, Oberon and Quince, bringing a quizzical authority that plays differently but superbly to each. Gemma Barnett’s combination of delicacy and bravery works as well to fair Hermia as to the Fairy as to Snug’s hilariously pathetic lion. Yet the versatility comes with no loss of individual stamp as Hannah Sinclair Robinson elevates Helena to a point where she competes for notional title of Comedy Lead with James Tobin’s left eyebrow, which cocks winningly as it brings some drag queen insouciance to Puck.

Ensemble playing is hearty and energetic with the cast’s movement (Yarit Dor) reaching into and around the audience, enhanced by the cast’s ad libs and some witty design details (Emily Stuart with Eleanor Tipler). If sometimes laughs are pursued too ardently it’s an understandable side-effect of the show’s mission to help even a child in the back row enjoy Shakespeare.

Finding new ways to access Shakespeare never grows old and, aside from the Portaloos and sirens, this setting could have been made for A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with Tatty Hennessy born to direct.

 

Reviewed by Dominic Gettins

Photography by James Miller

 


A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Various London Squares and Gardens until 11th July

 

Last ten shows covered by this reviewer:
Fool Britannia | ★★★ | The Vaults | January 2019
Cheating Death | ★★ | Cockpit Theatre | February 2019
The South Afreakins | ★★★★★ | The Space | February 2019
Tobacco Road | ★★★★ | Network Theatre | February 2019
How Eva Von Schnippisch Won WWII | ★★★★ | The Vaults | March 2019
Butterfly Powder: A Very Modern Play | ★★★★ | Rosemary Branch Theatre | April 2019
The Fatal Eggs | ★★★★★ | Barons Court Theatre | April 2019
Tony’s Last Tape | ★★★★ | Omnibus Theatre | April 2019
Fuck You Pay Me | ★★★★ | The Bunker | May 2019
Much Ado About Not(h)Ing | ★★★ | Cockpit Theatre | June 2019

 

Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com

 

A Midsummer Night’s Dream – 4 Stars

Inch

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

The George Inn, Southwark

Reviewed – 8th September 2018

★★★★

“there was a palpable sense that this was a Shakespearean comedy as it was written; beer in hand, actors bellowing over a rowdy audience and an overall good time”

 

The Three Inch Fools present their version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at The George Inn in Borough as a fusion of high-energy multi-role Shakespearian comedy with folk song and dance folded between, and into, the scenes. The end result is an enjoyable, energetic version of the classic cutting through the noisy beer garden and giving the family audience a fun and easy evening.

Directed by Stephen Hyde, this show is pure performance; our five actors cycle through the characters, each positively vibrating with enthusiasm. Claire Parry is a standout but all five were able musicians, great singers and obviously seriously physically fit to keep each scene louder, quicker and with more steam than the last!

Hyde is also the composer and, along with Eddie Mann as the Associate Musical Director, he gives the show its brilliant, if predictable, music with a series of folk-style songs, performed by the actors. These songs will catch any audience member momentarily relaxing with a hit of creativity to leave each moment filled with a can-you-hear-me-at-the-back attitude.

Unfortunately, high-energy does not a great show make. For families and in the fantastic George Inn, the show powered through as true pub theatre and was tight, well-rehearsed but perhaps not as thoughtful as it might have been. The comedy was generous and accessible although repetitive, and the multi-role work was clever and fun (a piece of costume for each character) but lacked the commitment in voice and physicality to not appear as a choice borne of necessity rather than creativity.

What this production lacked in substance, it made up for in comic commitment as the Fools battled and overcame a loud and boisterous beer garden. In many ways, the George Inn was a sixth actor, one that couldn’t keep quiet! There has been a public house on the site since Chaucer’s times (The Canterbury Tales begins there) and with the original Rose and Globe only metres away there is little doubt that the man himself once sat in the courtyard and was rained on a little as we were (bring an anorak!). This context and the cobbled streets meant that, for a touring production, the show felt specific to the George Inn and the performance was best enjoyed as a whole, rather than isolating only the on-stage action. The evening was impossible not to enjoy and at times there was a palpable sense that this was a Shakespearean comedy as it was written; beer in hand, actors bellowing over a rowdy audience and an overall good time.

 

Reviewed by William Nash

Photography courtesy Three Inch Fools

 

The Three Inch Fools

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

The George Inn, Southwark until 16th September

 

Related
Other versions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream
★★ | Theatro Technis | April 2018
★★★★ | Watermill Theatre | May 2018
★★★½ | Wilton’s Music Hall | June 2018

 

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