Tag Archives: Dominic Gettins

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

 

Much Ado About Not(h)ing
★★★

Cockpit Theatre

Much Ado About Not(h)ing

Much Ado About Not(h)ing

Cockpit Theatre

Reviewed – 20th June 2019

★★★

 

“on paper this updating is fascinating and makes utter sense, but poor exposition and some wishy-washy playing has a distancing effect”

 

The inspiration for Kelly Wilson’s 21st century vision for Much Ado is her discovery of ‘noting’, the Elizabethans’ version of messaging apps. The term relates not only to the exchange of notes but also the rumours and confusions that follow, explaining why they make such effective devices in Shakespeare’s comedies. The production can be followed on Facebook simultaneously, allowing the audience to scroll through and comment on developments in real time, and much of the on-stage interactions and revelations are conducted through smartphones.

Other innovations include the use of projections to set the scene, display Skype calls, Facebook posts and the sharing of video footage between the characters, all of which enliven as well as modernise. The action and some of the language is bumped to the modern era too, with characters Pedro, Benedick and Claudio returning from Afghanistan to let off steam, indulge their need for horse-play and falling in love. Ruthless editing means that Dogberry is written out altogether and the original Don John character is streamlined into Joan Don, a mean-spirited hacker with fewer lines and less motivation.

So far, though, so good. However, what promises to be an energetically re-imagined, intellectually ingenious and technically multidimensional version of this enjoyable classic sags in some unexpected places. Six original songs (Alex Loveless, Scott Howland) are signalled in the programmes, but their Disneyesque reality cheapens rather than heightens the play’s sweeping emotions, not helped by the patchy singing skills available.

The Cockpit’s generous stage-area becomes a handicap rather than a canvas for the choreography (Darren Royston) and the generally underpowered performances couldn’t quite live up to the production’s brilliant ambition.

Fortunately, the wittily-written love match between Benedick and Beatrice is distinctively delivered by Gunnar DeYoung and Tamsin Lynes. Joanna Clarke stands out for her steely Joan Nicola Don, despite the slighter role. But while there are many other details and talents to impress, it’s telling that most were non-acting. The digital design by Zsara Jaeger is beautifully observed, detailed and plausible, projections are well deployed by Liz Leeman and the overall effect is smart and coherent.

So, on paper this updating is fascinating and makes utter sense, but poor exposition and some wishy-washy playing has a distancing effect. Moral: too much social media spoils the appreciation of what’s in front of you.

 

Reviewed by Dominic Gettins

Photography by Laura Dorn

 


Much Ado About Not(h)ing

Cockpit Theatre until 22nd June

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Into the Woods | ★★★★ | May 2018
On Mother’s Day | ★★★½ | August 2018
Zeus on the Loose | ★★ | August 2018
The Distance You Have Come | ★★★★ | October 2018
Don’t You Dare! | ★★★ | November 2018
Unbelonger | ★★★½ | November 2018
L’Incoronazione Di Poppea | ★★★★ | January 2019
Mob Wife: A Mafia Comedy | ★★★ | January 2019
Cheating Death | ★★ | February 2019
Bed Peace: The Battle Of Yohn & Joko | ★★★ | April 2019

 

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