BWW Reviews: A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM, Lyceum, Sheffield, 31 January 2014
Propeller's A Midsummer Night's Dream (currently touring along with The Comedy of Errors) is a riotous spectacle of a production. The dreamworld is emphasised throughout with the fairies (all in white, wearing a combination of corsets and codpieces) providing visual and musical beats throughout - and the white camoflague nets and suspended chairs adding to the sense of surreal, otherworldliness. Designer Michael Pavelka was inspired to create the white palette by his own dreams, which are, unusually, in monochrome.
This version chooses to emphasise the surreal and the ludicrous in Shakespeare's work and is a riot of physical comedy, with the performers all demonstrating real agility as the scamper around the set, with its ladders leading up to the suspended chairs - these become a platform for the fairies to work their magic on the lovers and players below - all the world really is a stage in this production, and the fairies are those directing its performances.
The lovers' scenes of confusion in the woods are the most physically funny I've ever seen, going into full-on wrestling at one point and causing a huge roar of laughter and applause from the audience, whilst the fairies are suitably other-worldly, and the players reliably comical. In places I found some of the humour a bit too broad and I wasn't keen on the contemporary ad-libs throughout, which felt out of kilter with the original language. This is probably just my taste though - certainly they elicited plenty of laughs.
As is often the case with their productions, it takes a little getting used to the world they've created and the overblown characters within, but once you do, you can't help but find this a fun, fast-paced and riveting watch - I'll never quite think of this play in the same way again.
Propeller are touring A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Comedy of Errors nationally until July. Dates available here.