A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Image: Greg Ebdon

Image: Greg Ebdon

Venue: Drama Barn
Running: 3rd – 5th June 2011
Directed by: Rosie Fletcher
Produced by: Katie Lambert
Rating: ****

It cannot be said that after spending an evening in the surprising space that is the drama barn, you are left feeling as if it were merely an illusion. This production of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream was funny and chic, and most certainly concretely ingrained in the minds of the audience.

Some of the finest moments of comedy came from attention to detail direction from Rosie Fletcher, rose tinted glasses being a great example of this. Although not a principle role, Lewis Chandler’s Moth/Flute was a constant source of humour, with even the slightest mannerism or facial expression noted. Exchanges between Oberon/Theseus (Max Tyler) and Titania/Hippolyta (Hannah Higton) were also hilarious; their sparring words and genuine affection for one another, coupled with Tyler’s red pyjamas, produced an effect that was a joy to watch.

The cast were all solid in their interpretation of character, with unfaltering composure and eloquent delivery. Sam Briggs as Bottom was larger than life and a highlight of the production. Although at times his emphatic playing of Pyramus became a little bit much, switches between man, actor and ass were skilfully and hilariously made. The wide-eyed innocence of Hermia (Helena Clark) was handled with sensitivity and sass, while the cut and thrust power struggle for masculinity between Demetrius (James Soldan) and Lysander (Tom Vickers) was full of vigour, vitality and sweat.

Despite an overarching sense of comedy and humorous moments, the play seemed torn between this and a touch of sentimentality. The laments of Helena (Ela Gaworzewska) were genuinely heartbreaking, and her anguish and sadness were performed with great power and skill. Yet it was unclear how cohesively the decision to take a comedic route fitted with the set, lighting and costume choice. The stereotypical glitter and psychedelic colours of the many productions of this play were rejected in favour of a both minimal and beautiful backdrop and lighting (designed by Katie Lambert). It succeeded in presenting an effective base for the comedy and the characters, but would perhaps have been more successful with a more reflective and poignant interpretation of the play.

Also in this direction, the play lost some of the darker intricacies which it is both famed and studied for. For example, the integral Puck (Edith Kirkwood) was impish and sprightly – though played with vivre and excellent timing by Kirkwood, Puck did not leave us with a sense of motive behind his wrongdoings. Kirkwood is the fickle magician rather than the sinister and illusive schemer that ultimately captivates and challenges the audience.

However, generally, the atmosphere and comedy were both highly enjoyable; any thematic issues are ones that are difficult to address when producing any classical piece of Shakespeare. I applaud the cast and production team for delivering something simultaneously lovely and comic. ‘Lord, what fools these mortals are!’

3 comments

  1. 4 Jun ’11 at 1:36 pm

    Is this a dream

    You nailed it nouse for once I wholeheartedly agree with your review of a drama barn play!

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  2. This production was amazing, it deserves 5 stars!

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  3. Really good review. It didn’t occur to me at the time, but you’re right that the elegant set was out of kilter with the hilarious acting. I don’t think you should mark it down for this though, because the set was just too lovely. The bed prop was beautiful, and impressive. It was cool to see them set it up so cleverly. Yeah it may theoretically be out of place, but I’m inclined to say: who cares?

    I also think that at least some of the costumes *did* cohere with the comedic aims. The wall! The pyjamas! The wedding dresses! And as you said yourself, the excellent and zany glasses! When I cast my mind back to some of the other costumes the humans wore I do see what you mean. But again, some of them were just very cool costumes (Titania’s gown was one of the finest things I’ve seen in that building). Why complain?

    I thought Puck was great, but then I’ve not read the play. Surely, though, it would again be less cohesive with the comedy to have had him as a deeper character? You can’t have your cake and eat it.

    Sorry if my points seem pernickety. Seriously though, this was the best thing I’ve seen in the barn since Ignatius Briory.

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