Tag Archives: Gemma Barnett

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 Hundred Words for Snow
★★★★★

Trafalgar Studios

A Hundred Words for Snow

A Hundred Words for Snow

Trafalgar Studios

Reviewed – 7th March 2019

★★★★★

 

“heaps of honesty and bone-dry comedy”

 

I feel a little panic entering a theatre for a one-person play to find a seemingly basic set design. My natural inclination is to want as much distraction from the solitariness of the person on stage as possible – multiple pieces of furniture to move around on, lots of little props to play with, all so we can avoid eye contact and the general intensity that comes from silently praying that this one person will remember their seventy five minute monologue. In this case, the set is a curved white wall with various white blocks, all overlaid by a partial map, and that’s all. Not much of a give-away and certainly not much in the way of distraction.

But as it transpires, there’s no need. Fifteen-year old Rory (Gemma Barnett) saunters on stage and begins talking so casually, she might have been mid-conversation with an old friend. She starts at the end – in a helicopter flying over the North Pole with her dad’s ashes and her mum sobbing – and then continues on to the beginning – a completely commonplace death (a hit-and-run) of a nice and outwardly ordinary Geography teacher, who also happens to be Rory’s dad. Thereafter unfolds the journey from funeral to helicopter.

There is a whole lot of room in this plotline for saccharine catharsis and maudlin sentiment, but Tatty Hennessy’s writing is so perfectly British, deftly avoiding the more obvious route of overly stated loss with heaps of honesty and bone-dry comedy. Lucy Jane Atkinson’s direction sees Barnett deliver the entire play with impossible ease. She repeatedly teeters on the edge of mourning relief and repeatedly pulls back, making the few moments of emotional exposure all the more poignant. The script is also sneakily quite educational; I’ve now got a whole bank of fun facts about the north pole- my favourite involves a chisel made of poo.

Christianna Mason’s design is clean and simple – the camouflaged blocks house the few props used, as well as doubling as beds and chairs when required. But that’s all. And in fact, any more would have felt superfluous and distracting. The sound (Mark Sutcliffe) and lighting (Lucy Adams) follow suit, appearing sparingly and to great effect.

I feel it requires a mention that A Hundred Words for Snow is a story about an adventurous teenage girl, produced by a near-entirely female cast and crew, which is rare on both counts. And if this play is anything to go by, it should happen all the time because it appears to lead to roaring success.

 

Reviewed by Miriam Sallon

Photography by Nick Rutter

 


A Hundred Words for Snow

Trafalgar Studios until March 30th

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Good Girl | ★★★★ | March 2018
Lonely Planet | ★★★ | June 2018
Two for the Seesaw | ★★ | July 2018
Silk Road | ★★★★ | August 2018
Dust | ★★★★★ | September 2018
A Guide for the Homesick | ★★★ | October 2018
Hot Gay Time Machine | ★★★★★ | November 2018
Coming Clean | ★★★★ | January 2019
Black Is The Color Of My Voice | ★★★ | February 2019
Soul Sessions | ★★★★ | February 2019

 

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