BWW Reviews: A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM, Tooting Arts Club, August 31 2013
By all accounts, Bill Buckhurst's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream is a first for Tooting. I can, however, reveal that it is quite definitely not a first for Tooting when it comes to two lads fighting over a girl on a patch of wasteland behind a pub.
I guess there are as many ways of doing Shakespeare as there are directors, but Mr Buckhurst has chosen my favourite - the "Sod the theory - let's do big laughs and wild action" approach. And, with a mainly young cast all of whom are required to play multiple roles (and change costumes more rapidly than Katie Price changes husbands), that's what he delivers - Carry-On Shakey, if you will.
It's about now in a review that the writer is obliged to say that it would be unfair to single out any members of such a wonderful ensemble for special praise - and it would - but I'm going to.
Racheal Ofori (Helena) is splendidly outraged at the toying with her affections by the bewitched boys but never loses her dignity, even as she shakes off her would-be lovers, each clinging to a long leg. Ms Ofori also pulls off the most sensational sulk as Moon, in the mechanicals' hilariously ramshackle Pyramus and Thisbe. Kathryn Perkins (Hermia) is charming and funny and shows off a sexy singing voice that we're likely to hear much more of in future productions. She also channels Kathy Burke's Perry perfectly as a Quavers-munching Francis Flute. Richard James-Neale's punkish Puck is a whirling, physical presence sowing mischief wherever he goes in a performance that fizzes with energy and acrobatic skill. If you can find him, as he clambers about in among the old manufacturing units and courtyards on which the show is staged, you can't take your eyes off him.
If some of the speeches are spoken a little too quickly and if you can be slightly distracted by wondering how the hell that costume change was effected so quickly, such minor gripes are drowned out by the sheer fun of it all. In the interval, I heard a few conversations that suggested that this production was the first Shakespeare for many in the audience - after such entertainment as this, they'll be back for more of the Bard, and more of Tooting Arts Club too.