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A Midsummer Night’s Dream

★★★★

Wilton’s Music Hall

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Wilton’s Music Hall

Reviewed – 29th January 2020

★★★★

 

“keeps a smile on the face throughout, finding glorious new dimensions and unexpected joyful twists”

 

With a sprinkling of fairy dust and a liberal injection of soul, the Watermill Theatre’s enchanting version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream will put a spell on you.

This Dream’s a scream – and with its Edwardian setting fits perfectly into Wilton’s Music Hall. The Shakespearian shadows at the heart of this comedy certainly don’t offend and one senses the ghosts of variety past may be smiling in approval.

It is a play performed so often it takes something special to breathe new life into it and director Paul Hart and a bright young company do the Bard proud with a simply staged version that tells the story with clarity and manages to be joyfully creative too.

There’s some terrific doubling and mirroring of roles, several different to the “normal” and sometimes it’s hard to remember there are just ten performers in the Watermill Ensemble such are the quick changes and versatility of the company.

One innovative reflection here is that balancing out the down to earth thespianism of the Rude Mechanicals the fairies are all trampish shadows of some of the great music hall clowns, such as Fred Karno and Charlie Chaplin.

The Athens set (great stripped back design throughout from Katie Lias) appears to be backstage at a Victorian/Edwardian theatre, all ladders and fly ropes, which is transformed into the magical forest by the falling and raising of a red curtain and a beautifully ornate backcloth. The question being suggested is where the melodrama of real life ends and the otherworldly theatricality begins. Tom White’s lighting adds its own ethereal depth.

We are warned in advance that Lauryn Redding, due to play Bottom, is out of action following an accident during a performance of Macbeth, which runs in repertory with this production, and the 11th hour replacement is Victoria Blunt, who has played the role with the company previously.

There is no need to make any allowance for the substitution as this must be one of the best Bottoms ever seen. In what will go down in history as one of the truly great Shakespeare performances, Blunt finds comedy in every single line and action. Her weaver is a bluff and cheerful Northerner, childlike and cheerful, foolish and charismatic. There are some lovely moments where the fellow mechanicals gaze at her in wonder, enchanted by her daft artistry.

It’s a scene-stealing performance of the highest quality, yet such is the skill of the company and the director that it never overshadows the rest. This is exceptional ensemble work with the actors also playing instruments and delivering some pitch perfect albeit wonderfully incongruous versions of songs ranging from Sam Cooke’s Cupid and Jay Hawkins’ I Put a Spell on You to Laura Mvula’s Sing to the Moon. Joey Hickman’s arrangements conjure up moments of magic themselves.

Molly Chesworth is a sprightly and less than deferential Puck, as fed up with the power games of Oberon (a haughtily smooth and sexy Jamie Satterthwaite) as queen of the fairies Titania (a sultry Emma McDonald).

McDonald doubles as Hippolyta who is equally dismissive of her imperious new husband Theseus (Tow Sowinski who, in a clever and wry touch, also plays Snout the tinker, who in turn plays the ill-treated wall in the hilarious Pyramus and Thisbe play within a play) while Peter Mooney tries to keep the amateur actors in order as an enjoyably enthusiastic Peter Quince.

Robyn Sinclair shows off a magnificent singing voice and a talent for comedy as Helena, one of the four unfortunate lovers toyed with by the playful fairies in the forest. The quartet connects exquisitely and is completed by a dashing Billy Postlethwaite (Lysander), Lucy Keirl (Hermia) and Mike Slader (Demetrius).

This reimagined vibrant version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream keeps a smile on the face throughout, finding glorious new dimensions and unexpected joyful twists to this familiar piece that never loses its lustre.

 

Reviewed by David Guest

Photography by Pamela Raith

 

 


A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Wilton’s Music Hall until 15th February

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
The Good, The Bad And The Fifty | ★★★★ | February 2019
The Pirates Of Penzance | ★★★★ | February 2019
The Shape Of the Pain | ★★★★★ | March 2019
The Talented Mr Ripley | ★★★★ | May 2019
The Sweet Science Of Bruising | ★★★★ | June 2019
Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story | ★★★★★ | September 2019
This Is Not Right | ★★★★ | October 2019
Much Ado About Nothing | ★★★★ | November 2019
Christmas Carol – A Fairy Tale | ★★★★ | December 2019
Macbeth | ★★★★ | January 2020

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews

 

Macbeth

★★★★

Wilton’s Music Hall

Macbeth

Macbeth

Wilton’s Music Hall

Reviewed – 23rd January 2020

★★★★

 

“a gritty, unfurling tragedy filled with constant movement and action”

 

Scotland’s war-torn landscapes were Shakespeare’s original setting for Macbeth, providing an air of bleakness fitting to a story about a thane who kills his king. Stepping forward in time, this production finds a new current of bleakness to build upon, with dull building facades and army fatigues – all tacked over with a sheen of glitz and glamour, such as the sleek tux and red dress Macbeth and Lady Macbeth wear to crow over their newly-won court. Overall, the Watermill Theatre’s production is a worthy version of the tale, thick and heavy with atmosphere.

The play opens with war, as Billy Postlethwaite’s moody Macbeth greets not the usual ethereal witches, but looming soldiers fresh from the battlefield, who violently prophecise that he shall be king. But the dull underbelly of war is always there throughout the play, even in later scenes of revelry. When triumphant Macbeth and Banquo (Robyn Sinclair) return from war to Lady Macbeth (Emma McDonald), it follows them in the form of ominous throbbing guitar chords and solemn drumbeats. Growing darker throughout the play, especially after the couple murder their king Duncan (a warm-hearted portrayal by Jamie Satterthwaite), these musical touches serve to accentuate the mental anguish of our protagonist and other troubled characters.

The whole play is moody – an aesthetic that draws you in and can be credited in large part to the music and scenery. The musical elements (directed by Maimuna Memon and performed by the company) are an impressive feat; they start off hesitantly but by the end become so omnipresent that you begin to wonder how the play would have functioned without them. Featuring classics such as The Rolling Stones’ ‘Paint It Black’, the song choices are fitting throughout, involving minimal singing and working best as background ambience.

Clever scenery and set design (Katie Lias) casts an intentional shadow over the proceedings. Perhaps the neon lights over Macbeth’s reimagined hotel residence fading to read just ‘hel’ is a little on the nose, but the greying pockmarked building that dominates the stage acts as a nice metaphor for Macbeth’s initial feelings of impenetrability. Lighting (Tom White) is also deployed well against the monochrome backdrop to show blood, battle, and the bright trees of Birnam wood.

While the actors in some cases take a little while to warm up to their roles, the play does offer some new interpretations of familiar characters. Postlethwaite’s Macbeth is reminiscent of a troubled warrior from fantasy media, and while Mcdonald’s Lady Macbeth comes across a little overbearingly posh at the start, she grows to become more developed. Lucy Keirl also does well with the relatively minor role of the reoccurring hotel porter. All round, the performances from the rest of the company (Molly Chesworth, Peter Mooney, Lauryn Redding, Tom Sowinski, and Mike Slader) are generally good and grow with the thickening atmosphere.

Pairing brooding music with the already dark subject-matter, director Paul Hart has created a gritty, unfurling tragedy filled with constant movement and action (credit also to movement designer Tom Jackson Greaves). Watching this adaptation of Macbeth promises to be a dramatic evening indeed.

 

Reviewed by Vicky Richards

Photography by Pamela Raith

 

Macbeth

Wilton’s Music Hall until 8th February

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Dad’s Army Radio Hour | ★★★★ | January 2019
The Good, The Bad And The Fifty | ★★★★ | February 2019
The Pirates Of Penzance | ★★★★ | February 2019
The Shape Of the Pain | ★★★★★ | March 2019
The Talented Mr Ripley | ★★★★ | May 2019
The Sweet Science Of Bruising | ★★★★ | June 2019
Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story | ★★★★★ | September 2019
This Is Not Right | ★★★★ | October 2019
Much Ado About Nothing | ★★★★ | November 2019
Christmas Carol – A Fairy Tale | ★★★★ | December 2019

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews